Hampton House: Hip, Historic and Coming Back

Dr. Martin Luther King stayed at Hampton House. He held press conferences there (the Wolfson Archives has film of them). He swam in the pool.

On the night in 1964 when Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, Ali, Malcolm X and NFL running back Jim Brown all stayed at the Hampton House.  In segregated Miami the Hampton House was the place to be in the 1950s and 1960s. As the color line blurred the motel’s fortunes faded. Today it’s little more than a ruin, but its jazzy MiMo lines still excite the eye.

The news that the long-awaited restoration of Hampton House is beginning in earnest is cause for celebration and this clip, an excerpt from “The Torch of Friendship,” is a good way to start. The film, a mid-century promotional short about Hampton House, shows off the motel’s mid-century style and its stellar clientele, including Ralph Metcalf, a gold medalist in two Olympic Games; Wimbledon Champion Althea Gibson; and baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. And “Twisters and rock & rollers will no doubt spot young and exciting Jackie Wilson” poolside.

“The Torch of Friendship” is presented on YouTube by Florida Memory, which provides online access to archival resources housed in the State Library and Archives that illustrate significant moments in the state’s history, offer educational resources for students of all ages, and make available collections for historical research. It’s well worth a virtual visit — even if you just want to see the full-length version of “The Torch of Friendship.”

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