CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — It’s a devastating blow to the effort to save a home in Camden, New Jersey which has a connection to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The home has been denied a spot on New Jersey’s register of historic places.
Advocates say it’s not about how much time Dr. King spent at the home, but rather the importance of what took place there.
“That’s the actual police report signed by Dr. King,” Patrick Duff said.
A police report from June 1950, signed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lists 453 Walnut St. in Camden as his address.
It’s one of the key findings Duff uncovered linking the home to one of the world’s most important civil rights leaders.
“Little do people know but his first civil rights incident or civil rights battle for a sit-in took place in Maple Shade, New Jersey in a restaurant that’s no longer standing and he formulated the incident and sit-in right in that house,” Duff said.
Through Duff’s research, Dr. King made friends with people who lived in the now-dilapidated Camden home while he was attending Crozer Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania.
Dr. King spent time at the home on weekends and school breaks. Nearly five years ago, Duff submitted an application to New Jersey’s Historic Preservation Office seeking to recognize and preserve the house.
He has even had support from Dr. King’s friend, Congressman John Lewis, who came by in September of 2016.
“This piece of historic real estate must be saved,” Congressman Lewis said at the time.
“My hope is for that house to be preserved to tell that story and also something good to be used for the community,“ Duff said.
But a few days ago, the preservation office issued a letter denying the application, saying that a home where King visited but did not reside does not meet the criteria for historic designation.
Neighbor Dianna Jones says she would consider it an honor to display Dr. King’s connection to Camden.
“Fix the building up, make it a museum that children walk through and know that a great man like him – his footsteps walked these stairs,” Jones said.
With the state application denied, the fight goes to a federal agency and also the courts.