Fire severely damages New Jersey house where MLK stayed

A dilapidated house where Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in southern New Jersey was severely damaged in an early morning fire Saturday.

Associated Press

Mar 11, 2023, 10:52 PM

Updated 495 days ago

Share:

A dilapidated house where Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in southern New Jersey was severely damaged in an early morning fire Saturday.
Chief Michael Harper of the Camden Fire Department told the Courier-Post that the blaze at the three-story row home was reported shortly after 2:30 a.m., and the precarious structure presented challenges to fire crews.
“The place was already boarded and heavily fortified when our members got there,” he said. “They had to open the boards but by that time, the fire was pretty well advanced. They couldn’t make entry because of concerns about the structural integrity.”
Camden city spokesperson Vince Basara told NJ.com that fire crews reported heavy flames from the rear of the second floor and part of the roof later collapsed. The blaze spread to the home next door and four nearby residents had to evacuate, he said. No injuries were reported.
The city’s fire marshal is investigating the cause of the blaze. Basara said it’s possible the building may be deemed an unsafe structure and condemned after the city inspects it.
Local activists for years had been seeking a historic designation and grant money as well as donations to restore the structure they call MLK House Camden, which NJ.com in mid-January described as “a deteriorating ruin, with collapsed ceilings and gaping holes in the walls.”
Officials said they hoped “to restore this historical landmark and create a museum where people can see where Dr. King slept, ate, prepared his messages, and plotted his first anti-discrimination lawsuit.”
According to NJ.com, King and a classmate stayed at the home between 1949 and 1951 while attending the now-closed Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Patrick Duff, a Haddon Heights resident leading efforts to uncover more history about the unit and secure a historic designation, said King had stayed at the home while planning his first sit-in, which took place in nearby Maple Shade at Mary’s Café in 1950. He told the Courier-Post on Saturday that a squatter had taken up residence and he’d warned city officials about the potential for a fire.
In 2016, the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a friend of King’s, stood in front of the house with U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-NJ, and proclaimed, “This piece of historic real estate must be saved for generations yet unborn,” NJ.com reported.
The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, however, rejected a historic designation in 2020, saying there wasn’t enough information to show King was a long-term resident there. The office, citing a 2017 Stockton University study, said that didn’t mean King was never at the home, just that his visits “were just that: visits.”


More from News 12
A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here's what we know

A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here's what we know

2:25
Global technology outage causing flight disruptions at Newark Liberty International Airport

Global technology outage causing flight disruptions at Newark Liberty International Airport

2:04
Sunny today in New Jersey with lower humidity and highs in the upper-80s

Sunny today in New Jersey with lower humidity and highs in the upper-80s

4:20
'It's very upsetting.' Bridal party stuck at Newark airport after worldwide outage cancels Spirit flight to Los Angeles

'It's very upsetting.' Bridal party stuck at Newark airport after worldwide outage cancels Spirit flight to Los Angeles

0:18
Beachwood Beach closed for rest of summer due to high bacteria levels

Beachwood Beach closed for rest of summer due to high bacteria levels

What happens if Biden drops out of the race? Here are some scenarios

What happens if Biden drops out of the race? Here are some scenarios

0:26
Costco sells ‘emergency food supply’ bucket with a 25-year shelf life

Costco sells ‘emergency food supply’ bucket with a 25-year shelf life

5:00
Tech expert weighs in on Microsoft outage impacts across the globe

Tech expert weighs in on Microsoft outage impacts across the globe

0:31
Man dies after he rescues two young boys who were struggling to stay afloat in New Jersey river

Man dies after he rescues two young boys who were struggling to stay afloat in New Jersey river

2:14
Property taxes increase in some New Jersey towns as state slashes school funding

Property taxes increase in some New Jersey towns as state slashes school funding

0:26
Russia convicts reporter from NJ of espionage after a trial widely seen as politically motivated

Russia convicts reporter from NJ of espionage after a trial widely seen as politically motivated

0:26
Loose lid blamed in latest Dunkin’ lawsuit from Elizabeth woman

Loose lid blamed in latest Dunkin’ lawsuit from Elizabeth woman

2:20
Paws & Pals: Prince now available for adoption with Best Friend

Paws & Pals: Prince now available for adoption with Best Friend

0:36
Police: Borgata Hotel briefly evacuated after caller claims to have bomb

Police: Borgata Hotel briefly evacuated after caller claims to have bomb

13:51
'I’m not supposed to be here tonight.' Donald Trump recounts assassination attempt

'I’m not supposed to be here tonight.' Donald Trump recounts assassination attempt

1:39
New Jersey environmental justice law won't block power plant hotly fought by Newark residents

New Jersey environmental justice law won't block power plant hotly fought by Newark residents

1:57
Prosecutor: Director of Brick Township Rec Department issued phony permits to play on ballfields

Prosecutor: Director of Brick Township Rec Department issued phony permits to play on ballfields

1:53
Hundreds of Hunterdon and Somerset county residents clean up following intense Tuesday storms

Hundreds of Hunterdon and Somerset county residents clean up following intense Tuesday storms

0:44
Jersey Proud: Union Township elementary school students participate in junior police academy

Jersey Proud: Union Township elementary school students participate in junior police academy

0:22
Police: 7 passengers on adult day care bus taken to hospital after crash in East Orange

Police: 7 passengers on adult day care bus taken to hospital after crash in East Orange