ATLANTA — The National Park Service has quietly spent much of the last year preparing its newest Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site property. It’s the northwest Atlanta home where King and his family lived when he was killed in April 1968.
The house on Sunset Ave. in Vine City was still owned by Dr. King’s family when the National Park Service Foundation bought it from them a year ago.
Dr. King bought the house in 1964 – just months after his “I Have A Dream” speech. He and Coretta Scott King moved in to raise their four young children there.
11Alive News got a peek inside. The furniture is mostly gone to storage, but the house itself is a time capsule.
"This is the foyer," said Judy Forte, director of he Park Service's King site, as she showed us inside the front door. "This is where many of the VIPs would have entered like the Kennedys and others when they came at the time of Dr. King’s funeral to see Mrs. King."
The National Park Service expects the house to be a big draw for visitors after it’s restored.
"You can look in the garage. You can see one car missing," Forte said as we approached an open garage door.
Forte said the King family has retained Dr. King’s 1965 Chevy Impala. But they’ve donated to the NPS the 1979 Ford Crown Victoria driven by Mrs. King, still parked in the garage.
Forte said King's Impala was parked in the garage from the time of his death until the family removed it last year.
Behind the garage, there’s a wood-paneled, carpeted rec room. Near that is Mrs. King’s office. It's marked by a "Think Young" bumper sticker, from a 1972 Andrew Young Congressional race. Young, a former congressman, UN Ambassador and Atlanta mayor, was a confidant of Dr. King and was with him when he was killed in Memphis.
Forte said the NPS has already done considerable renovation to shore up the roof and plug leaks. More work awaits on the roof, which is visibly sagging in spots.
Forte says the Park Service is researching exactly how the place looked during Dr. King’s life – from video, photos and oral histories. As much as Dr. King’s life has been researched – this personal side, she says, remains largely untold. "The stories we’re going to be telling are not really written in any format. So we’re really peeling back the onion, and the time period," Forte said.
Forte says the project will take at least a couple more years – making 2022 the earliest this King house on Sunset Ave will open to the public.
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