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McCollum Hall: Revisiting the past and reshaping the future

Posted at 10:31 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 09:10:23-05

FORT MYERS, Fla.  — Right now, it’s just a yellow building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. boulevard in the Dunbar Community and now one man has a vision to make McCollum hall new.

“He had a heck of a lot more lifting to do, in terms of development than I do today. He had to deal with some of the racial injustice that was taking place during Jim Crow. He actually cobbled enough money to find the dollars to actually make this project happen, and we are just fortunate enough to be able to restore his building to its original beauty,” said Don Patterson, President and CEO of Reva Development Corporation.

Clifford “Buck” Mccollum Sr. and his wife Gertrude had a vision, of a place where all could come to enjoy. McCollum came to Fort Myers when he was 30 years old, and ran gambling games. He then used his winnings to invest in land for housing and commercial buildings, like the one on the corner of Cranford Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. McCollum Hall, a 2 story building tells a story of the past, in the heart of the Dunbar community.

Don Patterson, President, and CEO of Reva Development Corporation says his vision today for McCollum Hall is to restore it to its original glory, while incorporating a vision for the future.

“So the upstairs is the dance hall. The dance hall is actually activated by way of entertainers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, B.B. King, coming down through the chitlin circuit through Fort Myers to either go to Miami or Tampa. They would stop here from what I understand on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but when they came, the hall itself was packed. The downstairs, when originally conceived was a retail space, the uses were typically a shoe store, a clothier, I believe there may have been a barbershop here as well. “There were a lot of folks who didn’t look anything like me who would come and participate in dancing and seeing some of the acts that we’re coming from afar, and ultimately when we are done, we’d like to be able to do the same,” said Patterson.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s although McCollum Hall was the upscale social heart of the community, a rope across the dance floor divided the room between blacks and whites, but today Patterson says McCollum Hall will be a place for all to enjoy.

“So we’re extremely excited about the final product it will be finished out entirely with the idea that the second floor is going to be the dancehall, which is probably the most important piece of the restoration. We’re going to reactivate that space as an entertainment space. It’ll be a little bit more than just music entertainment, we hope to reach out to repertory theaters. We have the idea that we’re trying to reach out to the Imaginarium and others, with the idea that it becomes a bit diverse in how that space is activated. On the ground floor, we’ve come up with a concept that is a food hall. A food hall incorporating 7 and 8 vendors.,” said Patterson.

Patterson says he understands his role in restoring the original vision of McCollum Hall, and he feels as if he is standing on the shoulders of its original visionary.

“I come from a community similar to a Dunbar, I've had the benefit of a great education, some phenomenal work experience, the idea of being able to bring those tools and resources to the Dunbar community gives me great pride. I’d like to think that what we’ve come up with in the very end will make him proud and I like the idea of believing that future developers of color hopefully from the Dunbar community will see what I’ve been able to achieve here and believe that they can,” said Patterson.

Patterson says he has many contributors to thank, including The City of Fort Myers, the Mayor, Council members, and the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency. He says this piece of history will get it’s new makeover by the first quarter of 2022.