Short of two months after it re-opened for tourists following repairs and a structural assessment, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home will close again beginning Wednesday.
Judy Forte, superintendent of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, said the home will remain closed at least until March 27 and hopefully be ready to re-open in time for the summer season.
“Public safety and resource protection are our top priorities,” Forte said. “We’re working to ensure that Dr. King’s birth home is structurally sound, adequately preserved and available to visitors for generations to come.”
The 122-year-old house has been closed on and off since August for repairs. Forte said the home was initially closed for safety reasons after structural damage was found in the floors.
After a partial assessment – and repairing the floors on the first floor of the home -- parts of the home were re-opened in time for King’s birthday on Jan. 15 and remained open through Black History Month – to take advantage of what has traditionally been a busy season for the property.
Forte said workers will now concentrate on the second floor, which remained closed to tourists.
She added that the condition assessment is part of the ongoing preservation of the birth home and will guide park officials in determining whether the structure’s second floor can be reopened to the public.
“I know it is inconvenience for the public, but hopefully, we won’t have to do this again,” Forte said. “This is sort of between that and the summer season. We are just trying to provide the least interference.”
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Forte said all of the repairs are in preparation for 2018, which could prove to be the biggest year in the history of the home, since it became museum in honor of King.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 assassination of King and significant dates in his life attract more visitors to all of the sites, Forte said.
The two-story frame house built in the Queen Anne style generally attracts between 700,000 and a million visitors a year.
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.
Although the birth home is closed, visitors of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site can still visit 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.