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Utah State professor explains struggles local Black-owned hotels faced

FILE - Salt Lake City skyline. (Photo: KUTV)
FILE - Salt Lake City skyline. (Photo: KUTV)
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While new development continues to pop up in Salt Lake City, one researcher highlights sites where Black-owned hotels once stood.

Many of those hotels were listed in the Green Book.

It was a travel guide that for years many in Black community kept quiet about and used.

The Green Book helped Black travelers avoid violent conflicts with white businesses or patrons during the years of segregation.

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Christine Cooper-Rompato loves researching Utah’s history in general. She’s an English Professor at Utah State University.

When she moved to Utah in 2004 from the East Coast, Rompato said she noticed not much information shared about Utah’s Black history.

“But there’s a whole part of this that I haven’t heard about that I want to explore because it’s just an important part of the history of Salt Lake and the important part of Black people who are living in Utah,” she said.

Rompato dedicated two years of research to find information on Utah’s Black history and its ties to the Green Book.

Her findings were published in the winter 2020 edition of the Utah Historical Quarterly.

One of the areas she wrote about was the former site of the Macedonia Hotel, a Black-owned hotel located at 528 1/2 West 200 South.

Another location was the Pacific Hotel, which was not far away from the Macedonia at 241 Rio Grande Street.

It was in operation during the early 1920s.

Rompato wrote that this hotel was first advertised as a "whites-only" establishment.

However, during the late 1950s it became Black-owned and listed in the Green book.

Rompato said the Pacific Hotel was taken over in the 1950s by married couple LaVerne and Scenora Jenkins.

“LaVerne was originally from Mississippi and he was born in 1915 as far as we could tell and he’s college educated. His wife Senora was born in Oklahoma. And she belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ogden and was part of the choir,” Rompato said.

During her research of this hotel she learned The Pacific hotel was smaller than the 40-room Macedonia hotel.

It only had six toilets and six bathtubs.

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On top of that, it was in an economically depressed neighborhood on the west side of downtown Salt Lake City.

Violence in the neighborhood would erupt at times, eventually effecting Scenora Jenkins.

“She was the victim of violence here. Where she was hit over the head by someone who was trying to steal some money from her,” Rompato said.

Black-owned hotels were often run by women but the burden would be heavy to keep those businesses afloat.

In her research, Rompato found that police back then would target those hotels for vice or for vagrancy. Ultimately looking for any reason to give those businesses a hard time and drive out Black customers.

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“And it’s just really, really hard work," Rompato said. "Several of these women die quite young and I’ve wondered too if it’s just the level of work that they have to do to run these."

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