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Renovated Ebenezer Baptist Church reopens

April 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM   |   Comments

ATLANTA, April 15 (UPI) -- A restored Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where civil-rights advocate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized and preached, reopened its doors Friday.

For the first time since 2007, visitors to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site could go inside the church, considered one of the most important religious facilities in the United States, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The 89-year-old church was closed for a multimillion-dollar renovation project to restore it to its 1960s appearance.

"On a whole, we haven't changed anything. But we have updated and modernized things," said Peter Holness, project manager for Keystone Restorations, which oversaw the project. "People will come in and see a warm and welcoming church. They will feel the emotions. I didn't just see it as a church. I saw this as someone's home I had to be mindful of that."

The Late Gothic Revival church is where King delivered his first sermon at age 17 and where he delivered his last one on Feb. 4, 1968, two months before he was assassinated.

The National Park Service, which controls the facility, invested about $8 million in federal and private funds to restore the church back to how it looked in the 1960s, when King was co-pastor with his father.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is to attend a reopening ceremony, accompanied by National Parks Service Director John Jarvis, and Bernice King and Martin Luther King III.

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