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Camden house where Martin Luther King, Jr. lived inches closer to historic designation

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Support grows to save the dilapidated house

Civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. left his mark all throughout Philadelphia, from his time spent studying at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester to his 1965 rally at Girard College.

But as for where King, Jr. lived, slept, and ate? That’d be a simple rowhome across the Delaware River in Camden, at 753 Walnut Street.

The civil rights leader apparently lived in one of the bedrooms here while studying at the seminary during the 1950s, according to activist Patrick Duff, who has spent the past few years campaigning to have the home marked as a historic landmark.

According to Duff’s research, while living at the home on Walnut Street, King, Jr. and his friends were denied service at a restaurant in the nearby town of Maple Shade. This moment was influential in beginning MLK’s civil rights fight, sparking the first sit-in in New Jersey.

Duff, however, has had a hard time convincing officials to designate the home as historic. The state says that it’s not clear how long MLK lived at this location, and other historians believe he only visited occasionally, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Yet most recently, New Jersey congressman Donald Norcross wrote his letter of support to preserve the property, as did Camden Mayor Dana Redd.

The current owner, Jeanette Lily Hunt, recalls visiting her father-in-law and occasionally running into MLK during his stays. Hunt, too, is in support of having the home designated a historic landmark, though the home has fallen into disrepair over the years.

The city has noticed, too. As recently as August 1 it issued a demolition notice. Later, however, it claimed that it does not intend to raze the structure—it was more of a nudge to have the house fixed up by the owner.

Hunt technically has until August 19 to clean up the property, and the state’s Historic Preservation Office told the Philadelphia Tribune it is still reviewing the nomination.