Church where MLK preached undergoes major restoration - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Church where MLK preached undergoes major restoration

Clayborn Temple (Source: WMC Action News 5) Clayborn Temple (Source: WMC Action News 5)

A Memphis church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, is undergoing a major restoration.

The historic Clayborn Temple has been falling apart since it was abandoned in 1999.

"Water poured into this part of the building for 30 years," Frank Smith said.

Mobile users: Click here to see the disrepair inside the church.

Smith owns Wiseacre Brewery and Clayborn Temple. He says the church's amazing history must be captured, restored, and made available to everyone.

In 1968, during the sanitation worker rally that led to riots on Beale Street, police officers pushed the protesters off Beale Street and toward Clayborn Temple.

The protesters retreated inside the sanctuary, and that's Smith said officers fired tear gas inside the church.

"Police chased them back here and fired tear gas inside this very sanctuary," Smith said. "Can you imagine that?"

Smith's group, Neighborhood Preservation Inc., wants to restore the church for worship services and more.

"Let's have corporate events; let's have church; let's have Kirk Whalum do a jazz music concert for Christmas," Smith said.

Engineers said the foundation of the 193-year-old temple is sound, but there are a lot of other repairs that need to be made.

"We get to open it up for Memphis to come help us discover the highest and best use for this place," Smith said.

Neighborhood Preservation Inc. is holding a pubic ceremony to bless the temple next Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Renovations to the church are scheduled to be finished by April 2018, just in time for the 50th anniversary of King's assassination.

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