King Center CEO backs demolition of first black Atlanta mayor’s home

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

Despite complaints by Vine City residents, The King Center's CEO Bernice King said the childhood home of late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson Jr. — the first black mayor of Atlanta — should be demolished.

The city recently approved the demolition of the four-unit apartment building located on 220 Sunset Avenue in Vine City despite resident complaints — many of them citing the home's importance to Atlanta's black history. The historic street is also where civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and wife Coretta Scott King raised their four children. That home — at 234 Sunset Avenue — was sold to the U.S. National Park Service earlier this year.

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

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But, King said the apartments are past the point of rescue.

“The building is being demolished because it is filled with asbestos, is structurally unsound, has a caved-in roof, unstable bearings and flooring, and rapidly decaying bricks,” King said in the statement. “The building is beyond remediation and needs to be demolished for the sake of public health and safety.”

The King Center, which owns the former Jackson home, was notified Thursday about the concerns of the Vine City community and said they “had no knowledge” of the Jackson family ever living in the building.

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

“Immediately upon learning of the possible historical connection, we consulted with the Jackson family, elders original to the community, and Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown,” King said. “We all agree that the building should be demolished.”

In a statement, the Jackson family said they appreciate the Vine City community’s love and concern for preserving the building.

“We stand in agreement with the King family, as our families have been friends for generations, as to what should happen with the home at 220 Sunset Avenue,” the statement said, with the family adding a historical marker for the property should be considered in the future.

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The home was built in 1948 by family patriarch Rev. Maynard Holbrook Jackson Sr. His widow, Irene Dobbs Jackson, owned the home until 1965.

As of Tuesday, the future of the site was uncertain. A demolition date had not been set and plans for the property had not been finalized. However, the site is currently under a “conditional sale” to the National Park Foundation who will eventually deed it to the National Park Service.

“It is our understanding that the NPS is committed to working with the community to determine the best use of the space in terms of public safety and heritage,” King said.

Bernice King statement:

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