Miami-based architectural firm Gurri Matute PA is being honored for restoring and preserving an important part of Miami history, the Historic Hampton House.
Once the home-away-from-home for the most prominent African American celebrities in the world, then left to decay, the Historic Hampton House project architects Daphne Gurri and Jose Matute of the architectural and interior design firm, Gurri Matute PA received the prestigious 2016 Preservation Award during Dade Heritage Trust’s annual meeting at the Koubek Center in Miami on Apr. 27.
“Receiving DHT’s or Dade Heritage Trust’s Preservation Award for The Historic Hampton House restoration project is amazing and means so much to us because this project holds a special place in our heart,” said Gurri, principal and founding partner of Gurri Matute PA.
“We were able to restore significant amounts of preserved spaces so people today can experience for themselves the significance of this historic building, and to be honored for our work on the Historic Hampton House is truly an incredible honor,” added Matute, co-owner and Gurri Matute PA principal.
Historic Hampton House Restoration and Adaptive Reuse Project, as it is officially known, took nearly a decade to complete. When Gurri Matute first set foot on the Historic Hampton House site, located at 4240 NW 27 Ave. in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood, it was dilapidated and in disrepair.
Members of the community, such as Miami preservationist Dr. Enid Pinkney, came together to save the building. She, along with other Miami-Dade County preservation leaders and elected officials, rallied to raise money. They hired Gurri Matute PA, who had the vision to save this piece of history. All of the participants were honored and recognized during the DHT’s annual meeting.
“I think it’s fantastic they received this award because it was a pleasure working with Gurri Matute and I appreciate their dedication to getting to where we are now,” said Dr. Pinkney, who also is the CEO of Historic Hampton House Community Trust Inc.
“It’s just so good that they took on this project and did a first class job we can all be proud of,” she added.
Many important figures have graced the Historic Hampton House property such as: boxing champ Muhammad Ali, civil rights activist Malcolm X, actor Sammy Davis Jr. and singers Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder and Lena Horne.
Back in the 1960s, during segregation, African Americans could not stay at certain hotels on famed Miami Beach, but the Historic Hampton House opened its arms to all, catering to African American celebrities and families who wanted a resort stay in sunny South Florida. It includes a room dedicated to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The famed civil rights leader resided, relaxed and even held press conferences at Historic Hampton House while in South Florida.
The hotel got its historic designation, not only for its segregation-era history as a haven for African Americans, but also for the number of musicians who slept, socialized and even performed at the 50-room motel’s famed jazz club. Music greats such as Motown Records Founder Berry Gordy and singers Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson are among the celebrities who visited. Famed Singer Nat King Cole even performed there.
But after the civil rights struggle ended segregation, the hotel closed its doors in the 1970s. The nearly acre property went into disarray and blight, with overrun foliage, collapsed ceilings and sloping concrete walls. Miami-Dade County purchased it more than a decade ago to avoid its demolition.
Thanks to leaders in the community such as Dr. Pinkney, the non-profit organization the Historic Hampton House Community Trust, Miami-Dade County, a $6 million project funded by voter-approved county bonds and the husband and wife duo and the team at Gurri Matute PA, the Historic Hampton House is a salvaged landmark and iconic community treasure brought back to life.
Hampton House will now be used as a Cultural Center, museum and meeting space, rather than a motel. The Gurri Matute team renovated all 29,445 square feet of the historic MiMo or Miami Modern style building. The renovations include the main building’s entire first floor and the second floor, which could be built-out for future tenant use.
The first floor also includes two rooms, one of them a suite that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called home during his stays in South Florida.
That symbolic space and another guest room have been refurbished in period fixtures and furniture so visitors can experience it for themselves. Also renovated is the hotel’s swimming pool, which is now a reflective pool. Other areas, like the front desk key slot and reception station, the hotel’s iconic railings and wall murals have also been salvaged.
“Just walking through the building will now be like going to a museum, where you can live and breathe a tumultuous, yet soon-to-be metamorphic time in history,” Gurri said. “As an architect, we create space, but being able to save one of Miami’s most architecturally important buildings has been a life-altering accomplishment that I will forever be grateful to be a part of,” she ended.
The building officially re-opened in May 2015 with a grand opening ceremony. Historic Hampton House is located at 4240 NW 27 Ave. For more information about Historic Hampton House, visit www.historichamptonhouse.com. For more information about Gurri Matute PA, call 305-661-0069 or visit www.gurrimatute.com.