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CONTINUING COVERAGE: Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home sold to National Park Service

Federal agency has been offering tours of the home since 1982

After 30 years of tending to the upkeep of the Auburn Avenue home that Martin Luther King Jr. was born in, National Park Service finally has the deed. 

In late November, King Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc., negotiated a sale of the property, which has been controlled by the King family for a better part of a century. 

In a statement issued by the National Park Foundation, the organization, “facilitated through private philanthropy the purchase of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home and its immediate transfer to the National Park Service. The transaction closed on November 27, 2018.” 

Where the dream began. (via Flickr)

Neither the Park Foundation, the National Park Service nor the King Center would confirm how much the property sold for. But several media outlets are reporting that the two-story frame house built in the Queen Anne style sold for a cool $1.9 million. 

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Located in the heart of the King National Historic Site, the home was built in 1895 at 501 Auburn Ave. for a white family and purchased for $3,500 in 1909 by King’s maternal grandfather, the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, who was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

The room where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929. AJC file photo (For the AJC)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother Alberta Williams King inherited the home from her parents and Martin Luther King Jr. was born there on Jan. 15, 1929.

In 1941, the family moved to a more modern two-story, yellow- trimmed brick home, five blocks north on Boulevard. 

King’s younger brother, A.D. King and his family moved back into the house for a brief period before leaving in the early 1960s when he was called to take over a church in Birmingham. They were the last family members to live there, as the family then used it as a rental property.

A.D. King, the youngest brother of Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife Naomi, raised their children in the King Birth Home before moving to Birmingham in the early 1960s. They were the last family members to live in the home.

At some point, Alberta Williams King transferred the home and some of the original furnishings to the King Center. In 1980, congress passed legislation declaring it a National Historic Site. 

National Park Service began offering tours of the home in 1982 on behalf of the King Center and in 1984, the two sides agreed on a $50,000, five-year lease to assure that regularly scheduled free tours continue.

Since then, the Park Service has been responsible for day-to-day maintenance of the house. Every day, dozens, if not hundreds, of people walk through the old home as part of guided tours, which in itself is part of a bigger tour within the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, including the Visitor Center at 450 Auburn Ave.; the Historic Fire Station No. 6; the King Center (including Freedom Hall and the grave sites of Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr.); and historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

As part of their statement, the Foundation said details of the transfer will be announced after the King Holiday in January. So, it is still unclear how and if anything will change for tourists as it pertains to the home.

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