Annie S. Harris committed to Frenchtown revitalization
PERSON OF THE WEEK
By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook
Ann Harris was born in Linwood, Alabama, and grew up in Panama City; but has strong roots in Tallahassee going back to her college years. She is a graduate of Florida A & M University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Education, a master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, and certification in Administration and Supervision. She is a career educator even in retirement after 35 years. She began teaching at Godby High School, and became the assistant principal at Godby, before moving to central Florida for a principal’s position. Upon her return to Leon County, she became assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning_ only the second Black woman to hold that position in the Leon County Public Schools.
However, Annie Harris is being recognized as Person of the Week because of her demonstrated commitment to the revitalization of Frenchtown. Ann has wonderful memories of a vibrant, bustling Frenchtown business district during her college years. She talks excitedly about shops, restaurants, entertainment, and robust activity in the area. It was the place to be for great soul food, shopping, having your hair coiffed or cut, or just to spend an evening socializing with friends. After she moved away and returned eleven years later, she was devastated to see a much different Frenchtown, with most of the businesses gone, high crime rates, and no community cohesion.
She wanted to be a part of reviving an area for which she still had so many good memories, and started looking out for a property to rent or buy to establish a gallery to document some of Frenchtown’s history. It was during this period when a condemned apartment complex, a hotbed for drug activity and crime, had been torn down and was being replaced with the plan for the Carolina Place Housing Subdivision we see today. Though people told her she was crazy to invest in a business in an area that was just in the early stages of recovery, she bought a small house on Georgia Street and opened the ASH Gallery and Shop. Her initials were used to name the gallery, at the suggestion of a friend.
And as the new houses in Carolina Place were being built around her little gallery, she decided to buy the land next door and build a home. Again, she was warned that it was a bad decision; and, again, she did not listen. Instead, she built a home in the historic style of early homes in Frenchtown with a single story, and a generous front porch. When completed, she sold her home in the northwest Town and Country Park neighborhood and became one of the first residents on Georgia Street in Frenchtown’s new Carolina Place Frenchtown Neighborhood.
In retirement, Ann has flourished as an artist with her jewelry making and paintings on vintage windows that can be seen in the ASH Gallery, along with specialty retail jewelry and gift items. She has an exhibit scheduled soon at the Black Archives in the historic Union Bank building on Apalachee Parkway, across from the Old Capitol. Ann says a quote she saw on a church marquee has really touched and directed her life. That quote states, “The life that you live is the lesson that you teach”. She is a proud Frenchtown homeowner and businesswoman. And she is proud to be a part of the revitalization of Frenchtown.
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