Martin Luther King, Jr.
Historic Resource Study
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Chapter Five:

The nationally significant or contributing historic resources within the Site are primarily located on the Birth-Home Block. These resources should be managed so that the period of significance, 1929 to 1941, is represented as accurately as present knowledge of historic conditions allows. The Birth-Home Block was the residence of blacks of varying economic status during a period of national economic hardship. The historic appearance of the neighborhood reflected high density development and a great variety in income level. Management of resources should reflect the methods employed by the residents to upgrade and maintain their homes, often within limited means, and the diversity of housing types. For example, the alley duplexes behind 493 Auburn Avenue are the last remnants, within the Site, of a formerly common residential spatial arrangement and housing type. During the period of significance, large numbers of inexpensive multiple-family dwellings, often on alleys, were constructed in Atlanta to accommodate working-class blacks. These resources are important because they represent the intensive land use and crowding that characterized the Auburn Avenue black community. The store building at 521-1/2 Auburn is the last survivor of at least six outbuilding-stores known to have been in operation on the Birth-Home Block during King's residence. The garage/shed at 497 Auburn is the last surviving back yard outbuilding. Both are thus important resources that should be maintained and interpreted. Other elements of the physical environment important to an accurate interpretation of King's boyhood include: exterior plumbing and vent pipes, retaining walls, fences, sidewalks, and front and rear yards. For management recommendations concerning landscape features on the Birth-Home Block refer to "Cultural Landscape Report: Birth-Home Block, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, 1929-1941."

As recommended in the Site's General Management Plan, all the historic resources on the Birth-Home Block should have the facades restored and the interiors rehabilitated for adaptive reuse. Any delay in stabilization or rehabilitation of historic resources further jeopardizes their material condition. Most notably, two double shotguns on Old Wheat Street, currently vacant and in deteriorated condition, may be lost without prompt stabilization. Those historic buildings on the Birth-Home Block already rehabilitated should be maintained to present a streetscape that accurately reflects the period of significance. Most buildings on the Birth-Home Block are residences and should be maintained as residences through tenant lease agreements. Fire Station Number Six is one notable exception. Currently, stabilization is occurring on the building and rehabilitation should be completed promptly to avoid further deterioration of the historic resource.

Ebenezer Baptist Church is the only nationally significant historic Site resource that directly relates to the Civil Rights Movement. NPS should pursue cooperative agreements with Ebenezer' s congregation to encourage maintenance, stabilization, and appropriate rehabilitation. To facilitate maintenance and rehabilitation, a Historic Structure Report should be prepared for Ebenezer. Additionally, research needs to be done in the King Center archives to identify more precisely King's and SCLC's activities at Ebenezer from 1957 to 1968.

The historic resources along Edgewood Avenue are marginally linked to the Site's primary significance, because the relationship between the Auburn Avenue black community and the white-owned and operated businesses on Edgewood was probably limited. However, the Edgewood Avenue corridor, composed chiefly of locally significant examples of early twentieth century commercial buildings, supplies a largely historic buffer on the south side of the Birth-Home Block. Therefore, preservation easements and facade restoration, through private or City of Atlanta efforts, should be encouraged by Site management. Significant deterioration and loss of the historic structures along Edgewood Avenue threaten the integrity of the Birth-Home Block, because inappropriate private development within view of the Birth Home would visually intrude. Site management should also participate in planning for corridor improvements along Auburn and Edgewood to ensure that any city-funded improvements do not compromise the historic integrity of the Site and Preservation District.

Several buildings constructed before 1943 are located along Houston and Jackson within the boundary expansion area. Although none of these buildings was found eligible for the National Register, Site management may wish to consider adaptive reuse of sound structures in future development plans.

Interpretation of the Site, including exhibits, publications, and staff interpretation, should focus on the 1929 to 1941 period of the King family's residence on Auburn Avenue. Interpretive programs should also draw connections between the historic Auburn Avenue black community and King's subsequent civil rights activism.

Ebenezer Baptist Church is the key Site resource for interpretation of the Civil Rights Movement. The interpretive program at Ebenezer could be expanded to include mention of the rally he held there in support of the Scripto strike.

Finally, to link the Site and the Preservation District, interpretive programs and exhibits within the Site should emphasize the larger geographical and social interaction between the Auburn Avenue community and the city, particularly in the areas of urban growth and segregation policies. The Site's national significance, as both the birthplace of a significant black leader and as a crucible of the Civil Rights Era, should be interpreted concurrently.

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Last Updated: 26-Oct-2002