A Miami Treasure
The Historic Hampton House is one of Miami’s greatest gems even though many residents and tourists never heard of it. Perhaps this story in The Three Tomatoes will change all that. The hotel became famous in the 1960s because that was the place were big name Black entertainers opted to stay. The hotels on the beach would not accept them. Guests included Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., plus so many others who went there to get a peaceful night’s sleep. What a horrific time.
In fact, the movie “One Night In Miami, the 2020 American drama film directed by Regina King (in her feature film directorial debut) all took place in the Hampton House. The film is a fictionalized account of a February 1964 meeting of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke in a room at the Hampton House, celebrating Ali’s surprise title win over Sonny Liston.
In 1961, Harry and Florence Markowitz, a white Jewish couple, opened the remodeled Hampton House as an upscale motel with a jazz club, swimming pool and late-night restaurant in the all-Black Brownsville neighborhood. Architect Robert Karl Frese designed the 50-room motel in the Miami Modern style, similar to that of Eden Roc and The Deauville on Miami Beach. After the $6 million restoration in 2015, thanks to the work of preservationist Dr. Enid Pinkney, the real-life Historic Hampton House became a nonprofit organization and cultural center. Today, guests can tour both Dr. King’s and Muhammad Ali’s suites, and rent public areas for private events.
A group of us, Gail Williams, Jayda Knight, Alex Nuñez, Eliot Hess, and yours truly, went to the Hampton House this week to help celebrate Ray Elman’s exhibition of 40 x 60 inch, mixed-media portraits of people who were patrons or performers at this amazing establishment. Ray, a good friend, is an extraordinary artist who is also the founding manager/editor of Inspicio, an arts publication platform sponsored by Florida International University’s College of Communication Architecture + The Arts.
Elman has made over 200 paintings in portrait series of notable talents such as Norman Mailer, Robert Motherwell, Douglas Huebler, Justin Kaplan, Joel Meyerowitz, Annie Dillard, Mark Strand, Sebastian Junger, Alec Wilkinson, E.J. Kahn, Jr., Varujan Boghosian, Al Jaffee, Lee Falk, Elise Asher, Anne Bernays, and Ruth Reichl. His work is in several public and corporate collections around the world including the embassies of Madrid, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Brazilia, Brussels, and the Museum of African American HIstory, Proctor & Gamble, Fidelity Mutual Fund Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Alexander Grant.
Ray maintains a strong relationship with the Hampton House because of its rich culture. You can’t stop an accomplished artist from getting emotional about the soul of a place like this. The Hampton House has a loyal and best friend in Ray. It’s very heart warming.