Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home sold to National Park Service

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

In late November, the King family, after owning the home for more than 100 years, negotiated a sale of the property.

In a statement issued by the National Park Foundation, officials said 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."

Neither the National Park Foundation, the National Park Service nor the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc. would confirm how much the property sold for, but several media outlets reported that it sold for $1.9 million.

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Located in the heart of the King National Historic Site, the two-story, Queen Anne-style house was built in 1895 for a white family. It was purchased for $3,500 in 1909 by King’s maternal grandfather, the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, who was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

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

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

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.

Credit: Jessica McGowan/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jessica McGowan/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

The 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 regularly-scheduled free tours continue.

Since then, the National 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 are part of a bigger tour within the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes the grave sites of Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. and Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

As part of its statement, the Foundation said details of the transfer will be announced after Martin Luther King Jr. Day 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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