By Cleve Bryan

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CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Empty and boarded up, 753 Walnut Street may look like just another poor decaying structure in Camden, but it is rich in history.

“Dr. King had a conversation right on those steps about going down to Maple Shade and performing his first agitation,” says local historian Patrick Duff.

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Credit: CBS3

Since researching how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived in this home while attending seminary in Chester, Duff has been fighting to have the property preserved. It hasn’t been easy.

“I felt like I brought people a golden goose and they told me to get out of the kitchen,” says Duff.

The State of New Jersey has not granted an application to designate the home as a historical site.

While the City of Camden gave their own historical designation, Duff has come to find out through a lawsuit that the $229,000 grant earmarked for preservation has quietly been reassigned to the fire department.

“Why would they do such a thing? Why wouldn’t they give me that information when I asked for it and while would it take until a judge asks them for the information for them to reveal it?” asks Duff.

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Credit: CBS3

Saying they don’t comment on a pending lawsuit, the city won’t answer any of our questions either.

Vice president of the Camden County Branch of the NAACP, Colandus “Kelly” Francis, grew up a few blocks away from the MLK House and personally knows the family that gave Dr. King a room over 60 years ago.

His group, the Fair Share Housing Center, submitted a proposal to do the restoration after the city put out a request for bids last year.

This winter he paid out of pocket to fix the leaking roof as they wait for answers.

“It’s part of our history, not only our history but American history and world history. It goes beyond the history of Camden,” says Francis.

Duff’s attorney says the city was ordered to turn over documents regarding the decision to re-allocate the money to the fire department and a hearing is scheduled for June 5 in Camden County Superior Court.

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