Laser scanner to preserve details of Tampa's historic Jackson House

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They’re bent, broken and aged, but if the walls of The Jackson House in Tampa could talk, they would tell stories of Tampa’s segregation.

“If you were an African American, your options for lodging and housing were very limited, so you would have looked to a place like the Jackson House as really one of your only options,” said Manny Leto of the Tampa Bay History Center.

The Tampa Bay History Center and USF are trying to preserve those stories with some help from new technology.

Their team is using laser-scanning technology to record every inch of the building's interior and exterior.

Travis Doering, a research associate professor with USF's Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections, explains how the scanner works. 

“The device uses a 45-degree angled mirror that receives a laser beam from inside the unit and it sends it out both to the left and the right," Doering explained. "And as it spins, it’s collecting 360 data. We collected everything on the first floor, all of the rooms, all of the architectural details, right down to the screws and the hinges on the doors.”

From there, they'll create a digital map to re-create the home, which has been closed since 1989.

“The structural aspects of the walls and everything are intact," said Lori Collins with USF. "The flooring is displaced, because you have the structural network stabilizing it." 

Collins was one of the few USF researchers allowed inside the house. She said it's somewhat of a mess inside.

"There’s a lot of old furniture, old debris, items in there that take away your understanding of what the structure is. And so back in the lab we'll really be able to assess those things."

They’ll also be able to illustrate home’s place in a once-vibrant neighborhood.

“We see it surrounded by empty parking lots right now, but if you were here in 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 and so forth, you would have seen a business district, hotels, boarding houses, shops, restaurants and the like,” Leto said.

They're hoping to re-create this home's place in history for many decades in the future. 

At this time, the home is owned by the non-profit Jackson House Foundation. The debate over what to do with it has been a topic during Tampa mayoral candidate forums, but none of the candidates have made solid declarations about which way they lean.