A dilapidated Camden building where Martin Luther King Jr. once spent time as a seminary student will be preserved under an agreement allowing the nonprofit Cooper's Ferry Partnership to take over the property.

Cooper's Ferry will become custodian of the Walnut Street property, which is owned by Jeannette Lilly Hunt.

The Camden City Historical Society is expected to designate the Bergen Square property as historically significant at a coming meeting, according to Rep. Donald Norcross (D., N.J.). An application with the state to designate the building as a historic site is pending; that designation would make the site eligible for grants.

The building has been vacant for decades, and was this year marked for possible demolition by city officials due to its condition. Local activists have for years been working to permanently save the house.

In 1950, King was living there when he was refused service at a bar in nearby Maple Shade, an incident that sparked his lifelong crusade for civil rights, according to activist Patrick Duff, who has compiled dozens of documents on the time period.

"I am delighted that the momentum to preserve this historic house is gaining the attention it rightfully deserves," Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd said in a statement. "The city is committed to work with the owner of the house, Ms. Hunt, as well as Congressman Norcross, Cooper's Ferry Partnership and others to do what is necessary to save this wonderful piece of history."

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