Visitors to the Dexter Parsonage Museum will experience the actual residence where Dr. King and his young family lived between 1954 and 1960; an Interpretive Center, and the King-Johns Garden for Reflection. Parking is available for cars and tour buses.
The Interpretive Center, located adjacent to the Parsonage, features a gift shop, restroom facilities and an orientation room for viewing videos and discussion groups on Dr. King’s family, community, and pastoral life. The permanent exhibit in the Interpretive Center includes a timeline of photographs of the 12 Dexter pastors who lived in the Parsonage, a wall of Pastoral Wisdom (inspiring quotes from several pastors), unpublished photographs of Dr. King, Dexter members, civic/business leaders, and Montgomery ministers active in the bus boycott; and historical accounts on the bombing of the Parsonage and other significant events.
The nine-room clapboard Parsonage, built in 1912, has been restored to its appearance when Dr. King and his family lived there. Much of the furniture presently in the house was actually used by Dr. King, including the living room, dining room, bedroom and study.
If Walls Could Talk (©)
(the Parsonage speaks to tourists)...tells the story of the life and activity in the Parsonage:
I’m delighted to have so much company today! It reminds me of the day I was born in 1912, when my neighborhood, known as Centennial Hill, was a grand place to be - home to prominent blacks in Montgomery and beautiful Victorian houses located close to the state capitol. How proud I was to join such a respected architectural family!
Eight years later, I was purchased by a church as a residence for its pastors; I groaned under the weight of anticipated boredom - rigid schedules, well-behaved children, pastoral counseling for troubled parishioners, the daily humming of hymns, and no parties! Little did I know that 12 of the most brilliant theologians of their day would call me home, or that I would play such an enduring role in the changing face of America and the world. My life has been anything but boring.
In the beginning, I had three grand fireplaces, a back porch, and a quiet life. That was fine with all of my residents until this young preacher from Atlanta arrived in 1954. I was excited — I’d never been a honeymoon home before, and I thought his pretty young wife would give me a wonderful make over and lots of babies. Well, I got the babies — at least two of them — but the only make over was the addition of a study because the preacher became so much more than a congregational minister. It seems that, as grand as Centennial Hill was, and as accomplished as its residents were, because they were Negroes, they were not full citizens beyond the neighborhood. The young preacher believed that Negroes were entitled to equal rights and that non-violent protest was the appropriate means of securing full citizenship. So he and his church, along with the entire Negro community in Montgomery started something called a bus boycott. I’m glad they succeeded, but I was also glad when it was over. I barely got a full night’s rest while it was going on — people were running in and out all the time, they installed an additional telephone and security lights, and to make matters worse, I was bombed! I could have been killed, but by the grace of God, I was spared.
During the following years, the church changed me again, this time by eliminating my back porch and two of my fireplaces, and adding a second bathroom (modern times, you know). I continued the long tradition of playing hostess to church teas, receptions, and youth meetings. With the passage of time, however, the whole neighborhood changed. I lost my next door neighbors, and soon, the church’s pastors weren’t interested in living in structures like me. In 1992, I was closed, and for 10 years, I was dormant and lonely. I almost wished for another boycott.
Although I had joined the National Register of Historic Places on March 10, 1982, everyone took me for granted. Then in 2001, the church established a foundation, and I became the center of attention. Everyone realized how valuable I am to the legacy of Civil Rights and to Montgomery’s rich history. My lost fireplaces were found, that second bathroom is now gone, and I have my back porch again! And behind me is the most beautiful, tranquil garden ever! I am now a shining example of historic preservation, and today, I have hundreds of new families, including all of you, to love and protect me.
Thank you for coming. And tell all your friends how nice I look!