Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park | BIRTH HOME TOUR

Birth home of Martin Luther King Jr. (left) and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park bookstore (right)

Birth home of Martin Luther King Jr. (left) and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park bookstore (right)


The interior of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia, can be seen on a Ranger-guided tour only. Tours are limited to 10 people and are typically held at least every hour, and every half hour if staffing allows, starting at 10 AM, with the last tour at 4 PM. Tour frequency all depends on the number of staff members available each day—which can fluctuate due to illness or other reasons for absence—so there is no set schedule, though every half hour is the goal during the busy summer and holiday seasons. No tours are given on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Before heading out to the park, be sure to get the current schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the park.

There is no charge for the tour, but you must get a ticket at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Visitor Center. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the tour, so you must show up in person to get a ticket. Groups can take up to three time slots for a total of 45 people. Unless you are able to get a ticket for the very next tour, you will be assigned a tour time and must return to the Visitor Center to pick up the actual ticket a half hour before the scheduled time. After ten minutes your ticket will be given to the next available visitor.

Don’t worry if you are unable to get a ticket until later in the day, because there is plenty to do in the park. The exhibit area and the two films shown at the Visitor Center can eat up an hour, there is another exhibit area and the King Tomb at the King Center that can take up another hour, and a third hour can be spent on self-guided tours of Ebenezer Baptist Church and Fire Station No. 6. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars on Auburn Avenue.

There are also open-house tours held on some Saturdays during select hours, and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. No tickets are required; just show up at the house. The schedule is not readily available, so call the park at (404) 331-5190 to inquire about days and times.

A tour of the birth home is the top draw of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, and with less than 200 tour spots available each day, it should come as no surprise that they “sell out” quickly during the summer and holidays. I arrived at 10 AM on a Monday in mid-June and the first tour available was at 11:30 AM. There were two dozen people in the Visitor Center at that time. I watched one of the park films at 10:30 AM, and when I came out of the theater a half hour later there must have been fifty people there. A Ranger told me tickets are usually gone by around 11 AM; it is not unusual to have a couple dozen people waiting for the Visitor Center to open at 9 AM. Therefore, if a house tour is your goal, I highly suggest being at the park when the Visitor Center opens. As with all National Parks that have attractions that require a ticket, you can never go wrong by arriving early. Be aware that during the school season that school groups can take up to three tour times, and that’s per school. Therefore, if you plan to visit during this time, be sure to call a few days ahead to check tour availability for the general public.

Park Ranger gives a guided tour of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home

Park Ranger gives a guided tour of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home

The Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home is located .2 mile from the Visitor Center. There is a slight incline as you walk up Auburn Avenue, but it is an easy walk for most people. If you are unable to walk, you can be dropped off at the house, but parking is limited to street parking and may be hard to find. You can also borrow a wheelchair at the Visitor Center. The house itself is fully accessible for wheelchairs. A ramp leads to the first floor, and an elevator can take mobility-impaired guests to the second floor. However, since elevators can always break, if you have mobility issues I suggest calling the park at (404) 331-5190 to make sure it is working on the day you visit.

Tour participants must meet at the book and souvenir store located in the house next to the Birth Home. This is the main store run by the National Park Service, though there is also a small shop in the Visitor Center and a much larger store in Freedom Hall at the King Center, which is still owned by the King Family.

Inside the park book and souvenir store located next to Martin Luther King Jr. birth home

Inside the park book and souvenir store located next to Martin Luther King Jr. birth home

The National Park Service website for Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park claims the tour lasts 30 minutes, but mine went for 45 minutes. Including the five-minute walk to the house and some time to arrive early to perhaps shop for a souvenir, block off a full hour of your time for the tour.

The interior of the house is furnished as it would have been when Martin Luther King Jr. lived it in from 1929 to 1941. However, only about 25 percent of the furnishings are original because at the time the Kings had no idea that their son would become world famous and that one day a museum house would be created in his honor. Thus, as would any family, old possessions were sold or thrown away and replaced with new items. The good news is that since Martin’s parents and sister were still alive when the house museum was created, they were able to purchase furnishings and decorations similar to those that they did own. The guide will point out the various original items during the tour. No photography is allowed in the house, but you are welcome to take photos of the exterior.


Birth home of Martin Luther King Jr.

Birth home of Martin Luther King Jr.

The house at 501 Auburn Avenue was built in 1895. It was purchased in 1909 by Reverend Adam Daniel Williams. His daughter, Alberta Christine, married Michael King in 1926, and the two moved in with her parents. They would go on to become the parents of three children, all of who were born in the house: Willie Christine (1927), Michael Jr. (1929), and Alfred Daniel (1930).

In 1934, Michael Sr. changed both his own name and Michael Jr.’s to Martin Luther. He claimed he had uncles named Martin and Luther and that his father wanted him to change the names. However, most people believe the name change was the result of a 1934 trip to Europe, with Germany being one of the many countries he visited. It was a time when the Nazis were first coming to power, and he became more aware of Martin Luther, the German priest who started the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s. His followers would go on to form the Lutheran church.

In 1931, Reverend Williams died, and ten years later his wife died. Shortly after this, the Kings moved to a new house at 193 Boulevard Northeast (no longer exists). Martin Luther Jr. was twelve years old at the time. However, the Auburn Avenue house remained in the family and became a rental home. After Martin Luther Jr.’s assassination in 1968, Coretta Scott, the woman he married in 1953, founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center, today known as the King Center. Part of her plan was to turn the Auburn Avenue house into a museum. The King Center took ownership of the property in 1973, and it was first opened to the public in 1975.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter created the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, though at the time the National Park Service didn’t actually own any of the sites within the park. The birth house and the King Center remained under the ownership of the King Family, Ebenezer Baptist Church was still a functioning church, and Firehouse No. 6 was still a functioning firehouse. The current National Park Service Visitor Center didn’t exist until 1996. Park Rangers did, however, take over the conducting of house tours in 1982.

In January 2018, President Donald Trump signed legislation that changed the designation of the Historic Site to Historical Park, a designation for parks that contain a number of historical buildings and / or landmarks. But that wasn’t the only change to come. The burden and cost of the upkeep on the Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home had grown too large, so the King Family turned to the National Park Service to take permanent ownership. This became a reality in November 2018 when the National Park Foundation purchased the property for a reported $1.9 million, then donated it to the National Park Service. The purchase was made possible by a donation from philanthropist Robert Smith. The National Park Service also purchased the house at 234 Sunset Avenue NW in Atlanta, the house where the Kings were living when Martin was killed in 1968. The house must be renovated, but there are plans to open it for tours.

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Last updated on June 28, 2022
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