NAACP branch gets new home

The Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP is making strides in its plan to relocate and renovate the historic Franklin building in Frenchtown to a new, permanent site.

The new headquarters will be located at 719 W. Brevard St. The organization initially planned to move the two-story building from its current site on Macomb Street to its new home by the end of January.

However, because of unsuitable weather conditions, the branch now plans to move sometime within the first few weeks of this month.

NAACP officials anticipate both the community and organization will benefit greatly from the construction.

Charles Evans, president of the local NAACP, pointed out many of the advantages of the project’s completion.

“Many of the branches don’t have a set place to do business,” Evans said. “Working out of houses and small offices can restrict the progress of the organization. With this move, the Tallahassee branch will have a permanent home.”

Some of the previous locations of the Tallahassee branch include Orange Avenue, Capital Circle and the John G. Riley Museum.

“The new home will give the branch an even greater advantage when it comes down to achieving community goals,” said Althemese Barnes, co-founder and executive director of the Riley Museum.

The organization plans to house a new NAACP civil rights museum that will showcase many of the events and individuals who took part in the civil rights struggle.

The museum is expected to include photographs, a library and exhibits to honor the Tallahassee citizens who were advocates of equal rights. The museum is planned for educational use as well.

“The hope, of course, is to have a place where high school and college students can do research on civil rights in the Tallahassee area,” Evans said.

The second floor of the building will house a 2,000 square foot meeting room that civic, social and community groups can use to meet and conduct business. Other components will include offices that NAACP state officials can utilize when they come into town.

Officials from the Tallahassee branch said they hope to create an environment more supportive to the community by addressing educational, political and health concerns affecting black and low-income individuals.

The original NAACP building was constructed by Joseph Franklin, a leading entrepreneur, in 1947.

In 2002, in an effort to aid in the revitalization of Frenchtown, the Community Development Corporation bought the property and later donated the building to the NAACP in hopes that the historic site would be preserved.

The official funding request for the relocation and renovation proposed by the Tallahassee branch lists the preliminary budget for the construction. The branch has set the total projected cost at $385,700.

The NAACP provided $50,000 upfront to assist in the building’s relocation, and the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services of the city of Tallahassee provided a grant of $50,000 in up front costs.

The city of Tallahassee has subsequently provided $22,000 to the Tallahassee NAACP to assist with constructing the facility.The branch is seeking donations of services and supplies to renovate and enhance the Franklin building.

A “wish list” requesting donations for doors, windows, furniture and a number of other items was developed as well.

The organization hopes to be finished with the third phase of construction and open by early 2008.

“[This] will give the local chapter more of an identity,” said Barbara DeVane, the Freedom Fund chair for the local NAACP. “That strengthens the organization. It advances the agenda.”

Many members and organization officials agree the overall future of the historic NAACP building is very bright.