|Posted by Anne Siren on March 1, 2013 at 3:45 AM|
By Michael d’Oliveira
Pompano Beach – As this city undertakes major improvements on Martin Luther King [MLK] Boulevard to attract new development, the street’s earliest inhabitants still remember earlier times.
Alfonsa McIntosh remembers when MLK was named Rock Road; a name that came from the road literally being made out of rocks and dirt. “My father used to bust those big old rocks to fill in pot holes,” he said.
Back then, McIntosh said MLK Boulevard was mostly surrounded by farms and labor camps, but one of the few surviving buildings from that era, the Ali Building, is where he used to get haircuts for 75 cents.
Now, Rock Road is known by two names: MLK and Hammondville Road, a decision made by city commissioners in 1990 that was not without controversy.
Commissioners chose Hammondville in honor of Hiram F. Hammon, a white pioneer who employed many African Americans on his farms in the area.
Beverly Moody, a community activist who now serves as the director of outreach services for Congressman Alcee Hastings, said many in the African American community were upset with naming the street after Hammon because of the poor wages he paid his workers.
She said residents packed city hall to demand the removal of Hammon’s name but commissioners decided to compromise and choose two names.
Now, 20 years after the name change, commissioners are focused on the street itself.
On Feb. 7, residents and city officials broke ground on the MLK streetscape improvements. The $11 million project, which also includes Historic Downtown Pompano, is designed to improve sidewalks, lighting and landscaping and add entryway signs and new parking.
Another groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. at the Ali Building, 353 MLK Blvd. Final plans for the building’s future are still being worked-out but the goal is to make it a cultural center. Horatio Danovich, engineer for the Community Development Agency, said the project has been budgeted to cost about $1.2 million and should be finished by the end of the year.
Built in 1933, the Ali Building is named after Frank and Florence Ali, the husband and wife who originally owned it. Frank ran the barbershop and Florence ran a beauty salon out of the first floor. They used the second floor as their home.
Asked if she’s happy with the city’s plans for the Ali Building, Hazel Armbrister, president of the Rock Road Restoration Historical Group [RRHG], said she is waiting until the project is farther along before she makes up her mind.
She said it’s important that the Ali Building “become a museum for our history – blacks, coloreds, negroes. Pompano would not have been Pompano without them.”
To honor some of those who helped Pompano to evolve, the RRRHG, residents and city officials gathered at the E. Pat Larkins Center on Sunday for RRRHG’s Black History Program.
McIntosh was presented with the organization’s Pioneer award.
Armbrister described him as one of the organization’s founding members and credited him with helping to establish RRRHG when it was just an unofficial group that met at the Mitchell Moore Community Center.
Richard Macon was honored for his work as the owner of Freeman-Macon Funeral Home. Macon said he has amassed a stack of unpaid bills from people who couldn’t afford a decent funeral for a loved one.
But Macon said their ability to pay hasn’t been his main concern. “I saw a need in this community. [Some people] couldn’t afford a decent burial. I decided I could [help them] and I just decided to keep doing it.”
The late John Franklin Lee was honored for opening the first shoe repair shop and teaching many young men, including his grandson, Vincent Johnson, to shine shoes.
Ocie Phillips was honored for opening the city’s first barbershop.
Tom Baker, now deceased, was honored for being one of the first landowners in Pompano. In particular, Armbrister said he owned vast tracts around Rock Road.
His son-in-law, Julius Bristol Ellington, also deceased, was honored for his generosity and “life of giving.” Accepting the awards were the son of Julius Ellington, Charles Ellington, and Charles’ wife, Emma.
In 2000, the Ellington family kept up Julius’ spirit of giving by donating land to the city for the E. Pat Larkins Center, land that previously housed the Ellington homestead where Charles Ellington was born and Emma Ellington gave birth to three of their sons.
Emma Ellington said that it’s important to teach the African American residents of Pompano that their forefathers were hard-working, successful people who played an important role in helping to develop the city. “We’re going to rewrite our own history,” she said.