Everyone seemed to know each other and care for each other. Nobody locked doors or had locks on the doors. Auburn Avenue was the center of the community. — Winfred Wright
The quote above is for Auburn Avenue, which residents called Sweet Auburn, a term coined by John Wesley Dobbs who was considered the unofficial “mayor” of Auburn Street.
At 8am, the street stands quiet and very few people are out, those who are out are wandering the Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Many are looking for the street’s most famous building: the house where Martin Luther King Jr. was born. His father (and eventually he) was a pastor at the Ebenezer Church down the street.
Shotgun houses line the streets and were once owned by white factory workers employed by the Empire Textile Factory a few blocks away. After the Atlanta Race Riot in 1906, these houses were abandoned, rented out to Black families, and became a part of the fabric that is Sweet Auburn.
A large group of school children is exploring the 1894 Romanesque revival style Fire Station where the station’s 1927 Fire Engine (No. 6) still sits polished and ready for action. The building will never house another Engine because the arched doorway is too small for anything larger than the vehicle that now sits inside.
These days there are more tourists on Auburn Avenue than locals, and the value of the property sits with historical buildings. Houses on the block around the King House are snapped up quickly by the National Park Service as they hit the market.
Preservation of houses in this area started with the Center for Nonviolent Social Change and continues with the Park Services. A good example of this is an Apartment house next to the King House. Once boarded up, falling down, and condemned, it was rebuilt and now has a new life as a King Era (1920-1940s) apartment block.
One house still sits empty and looks like it is ready for its overhaul… it’s out of place amongst the well-kept buildings and gardens. It seems that it is ready for its new and prestigious role as an ambassador for Sweet Auburn.