ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A small, quaint cottage located a short distance from the ocean in St. Johns County is now in the hands of David Manaute and his wife, Patti Barry, who recently purchased the home knowing it has a direct connection to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The owners of the home in 1964, who were supporters of the Civil Rights movement, had made it available to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as they campaigned for the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
SCLC staffers had visited and stayed in the home, and King himself had been invited to stay, but the house was vandalized, burned and shot up by segregationists before he ever spent the night there.
An iconic picture of King shows him pointing to a bullet hole in a pane of glass at the home.
“You see the bullet went through there, it matches up with this other hole. It went through here, through this other piece of metal, and it lodged right there,” Manaute showed us the evidence of violence that still remains at the historic home. “We found the actual burns from the attacks. Over here, in the hallway.”
Manaute and Barry said they didn’t think twice about buying the house. They not only want to preserve the history of the space, they want to share it.
“Came in and visited a couple of times, that’s when we first saw the bullet hole,” Barry said. “That really sealed the deal that we can’t let somebody else buy it and take it down.”
Manaute said the lesson the home teaches is an important one.
“It actually makes me stop for a second and realize the hatred that these people had to live through. And the fear,” Manaute said.
The couple will add to the home for their own living space. But preserve the historic area so people can come in and experience the history up close.
During our visit with the couple, neighbors Carolyn Schmidt and Sandy O’Donnell stopped by. Both women enjoyed speaking with Manaute and Barry, and liked what they saw.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Schmidt said. “And to preserve it so people can see what happened here? Definitely.”
“I’m impressed with the things they’re going to do to this house,” O’Donnell said. “And the enthusiasm they have to do it because history does need to be preserved.”
Preserved so future generations will never forget.
“It’s doomed to repeat itself if you don’t remember it,” Barry said. “There are people who deny it and people who try to say things don’t happen.”
It’s going to be a while before the couple and their children move in. But when that day comes, people are welcomed and encouraged to stop by and see history for themselves.