Tucked behind groves of regal oak trees and moss, sits the oldest representation of Florida A&M’s history – Gibbs Cottage.
The now deteriorated house, boarded up with plywood and surrounded by overgrown weeds is a mere shadow of what was.
Built in 1894, Gibbs Cottage is the oldest building on FAMU’s campus.
“It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of architecturally designed structures on this campus, not to mention so immaculately rooted in our school’s history,” said Ajah Coleman, a second-year elementary education student from Miami. “We have to do something to ensure that this building, this treasure, is brought back to its original standards.”
Originally, Gibbs Cottage served as the residence of the first Vice President of the university and legislator Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs.
“Gibbs cottage is the only surviving wooden structure from FAMU’s “Highwood Plantation” era. We would all love to see it given the proper and respectful position on this historic campus,” said Muriel Dawson, curator of the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center.
Gibbs, who has been credited with writing the legislation that created Florida A&M, served as a Florida legislator from 1884-1887 before he accepted a position as vice president at the State Normal College for Colored Students. He was also a co-founder and professor of what was then the State Normal College for Colored Student
FAMU is located on what was once Highwood Plantation in 1891, land on which Territorial Governor W.P. Duval owned slaves.
“Many students don’t realize just how great this institution is,” said Everett Mills, a third-year criminal justice student from Atlanta. “The history about the Gibbs family is enough to make us and want to preserve their memory in the best light possible.”
The cottage has passed through the ownership of several people since Gibbs’ death in 1898, including Everett Booker Jones, a 1895 graduate of the State Normal College and a professor of mathematics and member of the State Board of Education.
Eventually, the cottage was renovated and used as housing for FAMU faculty members who were married. In 1985, the cottage was relocated to S. Bronough Street and was later transferred to its present location on S. Adams Street.