In 1984, Mtamanika Youngblood and her husband George Howell were looking to move from the suburbs to the city and happened upon a house on Howell Street – not far from Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace and childhood home. Despite its disrepair and downtrodden neighborhood, they decided to make it their own.
Mtamanika and George soon learned that 102 Howell Street was built in 1890 by Alexander Hamilton Jr., Atlanta’s leading African American contractor, as his family home. Hamilton, in fact, was one of the business leaders who laid the groundwork for Sweet Auburn’s evolution into the center of African American cultural and commercial excellence. Mtamanika managed the substantial renovation of the home and ensured its recognition as a historic property in keeping with the State of Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division and utilizing the Secretary of the Interior standards for revitalization.
“We didn’t touch the outside of the house for seven years because it would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb,” Mtamanika says. “But when we opened the front door, people were amazed by the inside.”
Mtamanika and George had aspirations to revitalize the entire neighborhood - and did so one home at a time. They both joined the Board of the Historic District Development Corporation (HDDC) - which facilitates the preservation, revitalization, and non-displacement of residents in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District - and learned that persistence pays.
Even after George’s passing, Mtamanika has continued their work. To date, she and the HDDC have renovated or built 120 architecturally compatible homes, as well as commercial, retail, and multi-family buildings. Mtamanika is once again renovating 102 Howell Street - this time to convert it into a bed and breakfast. When finished, it will be the only privately owned renovated historic house in the MLK District and its only bed and breakfast. An Invest Atlanta Community Empowerment Fund Grant helped Mtamanika make the property handicap accessible, and she hopes it will serve as a community amenity for gatherings, meetings, and receptions. There’s something special about the neighborhood that shaped Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I want people to understand the importance of that legacy and tell the amazing stories of Atlanta’s prominent African Americans, like Alexander Hamilton Jr., in the context of Sweet Auburn.”
Read more of our “Partners In The Spotlight” in our 2017 Annual Report.