Timeline: January 28-31, 2017
Up early as planned on Monday, we left the house a little before 8:30 to walk one-mile to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in order to make sure we could get tickets for a tour of his birth home. It was a bracingly cold morning and the walk helped to take the chill off. We arrived just prior to opening time, warming ourselves outside the Visitor Center in a sunny spot and then entered as they opened the doors, second in line to get our tour passes.
Our early arrival gained us entry on the first tour less than twenty minutes later so we did a cursory pass through the exhibits at the Visitor Center, and then made our way two blocks to the house where King was born and lived his first twelve years with his parents, maternal grandparents, sister, brother, uncle and aunt.
The King home is still owned by the family and operated by the Park Service. It sits in the middle of a residential area that is still an active community, with many of the late 19th and 20th century homes restored and used as park offices or private residences. The Park service purchased most of the buildings in this area to preserve its historical relevancy, given the encroachment of development given is proximity to downtown Atlanta. This policy of encouraging ongoing use through rental keeps the neighborhood alive and yet preserves it for future visitors.
Given the age of the house, built in 1895, a need to repair and preserve it caused a temporary closure in August 2016. Repairs were made to the first floor and the home reopened to the public on January 14th, just in time for our visit. For safety reasons, the second floor was still off limits, unfortunately eliminating our ability to see the room King was born in but giving us more time to spend while touring the entire first floor.
It is a house of impressive size, finishes, and furnishing, a glimpse into the lives of an educated and prosperous black family of the era. Given the background of his parents, it’s not hard to see how and why King went in the direction he did, a man of the cloth devoted to human rights, particularly those of the black members of our society.
We finished the tour and walked back down the street to the Historic Fire Station No. 6 where a young King would hang out, playing basketball in the back courtyard. Built in 1894 in the Romanesque Revival style, it symbolized the gulf between whites and blacks as King was growing up in in that although it served a predominately black neighborhood, blacks could not serve as fire fighters. In the 1960’s it became Atlanta’s first racially integrated firehouse, finally closing as an active station in 1991.
We then walked back down Auburn Street, pausing for a moment or two at the official memorial to view the reflecting pool and the large tombstone where Martin and Coretta are both interred. A short walk down the street took us to the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized and both his father Martin Luther King Sr., and he were pastors.
A last stop at the Visitor’s Center completed the circle. We didn’t need to spend a lot of time there as we had covered much of the content the day before at the Civil and Human Rights Museum. By now it was nearing noon and hunger was setting in, so we walked back towards 49 Waverly for a late breakfast at the Thumb’s Up Diner which I had spied as we walked over earlier in the day.
It was busy when we entered but seating was available at a booth in the main dining room. We perused the menu and ordered; Joanna went for the Fried Catfish Blue Plate Special with Sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms while I stuck with breakfast, ordering the Skillet Heap (A skillet full of fresh-sliced potatoes grilled with onions, green peppers topped with cheddar jack cheese, two scrambled two eggs and chopped chicken sausage).
This was satisfyingly good food and there was much of it. I only made my way through half of my order, getting a to-go box that we then took back to the house with us. It would get consumed later that day as part of a snack based dinner we’d enjoy. Without a pause we hopped in the car to drive to our destination for the balance of the afternoon, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) Museum, located in the CDC’s head quarters building in Atlanta.
Established in 1996 in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 50th anniversary, it uses award-winning exhibits and innovative programing to educate visitors about the value of public health, and presents the rich heritage and vast accomplishments of CDC. The museum hosts about 90,000 visitors each year, and provides popular educational programs for students and teachers.
I’ll admit I wasn’t initially enthused about touring the place, but once there foundI was captivated by the breadth and depth of the exhibits, which highlighted the history of the organization and details about its major campaigns, ranging from an early 20th century quarantine sign, Legionnaire’s Disease, an iron lung,
QUAC sticks used during the Biafra famine,
a ped-o-jet medical injecting syringe used in the campaign to eradicate smallpox, and many others that kept easily kept us engaged for two hours or more.
We left the museum and walked back to the car, which we had parked across the street in a shopping mall as we couldn’t park at the CDC, having been stopped at the guard booth because I honestly answered that I had a small, I mean very small, penknife in my pocket. To assuage our guilt about having parked for free, we stopped in at Strippaggio, a vendor of artisan oils and vinegars to sample some of the products, which they stored in large decanters from which you could taste.
Not inclined to spend $20 or more for a bottle of balsamic vinegar, we did settle on a jar of Terrapin Ridge Farms Hot Pepper Bacon Jam. The clerk suggested an appetizer recipe for its use; simply take a package of Philo Dough cups, place a portion of brie inside and top with the bacon jam, then bake until warm. We tried it and indeed it was quite tasty.
We returned to 49 Waverly for a quiet evening at home. Alex and Dave were both out and so we spent some time in the room adjacent to the kitchen watching Netflix and finishing off the remains of my breakfast from the morning. Another full day in Atlanta had kept us busy and as usual we had another planned. Sleep came easy as we prepared for another early start, looking forward to more adventures.
Martin Luther King Jr. Site: https://www.nps.gov/malu/index.htm
Thumb’s Up Diner: http://thumbsupdiner.com/
Terrapin Ridge: https://terrapinridge.com/jams-jellies/hot-bacon-jam