Trust for Public Land Secures $2 Million of a $4.5 Million Campaign Needed to Complete the Restoration and Permanent Protection of Atlanta’s Historic and Endangered Prince Hall Masonic Lodge

Major Donation from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundations Serves as Catalyst in the $4.5 Million Campaign for Full Restoration and Conservation

 Atlanta, GA – Today, Trust for Public Land [TPL] along with leadership from the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge [the Lodge], announced a major step forward in the restoration and conservation of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, securing an initial $2 million for the $4.5 million campaign to permanently protect the Lodge and ultimately incorporate it into the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historical Park [MLK National Historic Park]. This initial funding was made possible by a donation from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

“Since 2018, the Masons have been working with local partners to raise the funds needed to restore the historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge. The Masons were able to raise nearly $9 million to restore this incredibly historic building. Trust for Public Land joined the effort nearly a year ago to help the Masons raise all the necessary funds. TPL is taking the additional step to acquire the building and transfer it to NPS to incorporate it into the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Today, TPL and partners are proud to announce that we are one major step closer in that mission,” said George Dusenbury, Vice President of the Southern Region for Trust for Public Land. “We approach this work with a sense of urgency, as the building envelope is compromised, and the building continues to deteriorate. The support from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation is a vital investment to ensure that this piece of history is preserved.”

The Lodge is most famous for housing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SLCC] for four decades. Built in 1940 by John Wesley Dobbs, the Lodge retains its original character due to its uninterrupted use and maintenance by Masonic leadership until 2018, but it has fallen into disrepair and is at risk of being lost. The Atlanta History Center has identified the Lodge as one of the two most historically significant, unprotected buildings in metro Atlanta.

In 2018, then Representative Reverend John Lewis led Congress to expand the MLK National Historic Park boundaries to include the Lodge, where Dr. King’s SLCC had its offices until 2007.  In recent years, the MLK National Historic Park has drawn 500,000 to 700,000 visitors annually, based on trips to the Visitor Center. In addition to the MLK National Historic Park’s Visitors Center, people enjoy access to Old Ebenezer Church and historic Fire Station #6. The National Park Service provides guided tours of these sites and intends to offer similar programming for the Lodge once it is restored.

This project will restore the SCLC offices to their historic character, with NPS exhibits and educational signage. Anticipating the Lodge will draw visitors much like Old Ebenezer Church, NPS anticipates posting staff on site. The addition of a restored Lodge and SCLC’s office to the MLK National Historic Park’s existing destinations will create a more immersive and comprehensive historical experience.

“Black history is American history, which is why it is so critical that we ensure authentic stories of black history and excellence – like the history and heritage behind the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge—and are protected and enshrined for future generations,” said Dr. Jocelyn Imani, Black History and Culture Director. “To be able to work with National Park Service and local leaders to better understand the story and Civil Rights movement members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference built between the walls of the Lodge, is an incredible opportunity to preserve our shared history.”

In addition to the significance tied to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and SLCC, the Lodge was a frequent meeting location for important African American organizations including the Atlanta Civic-Political League, a voting-rights organization, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a labor organization. But the Lodge also was the home of a Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Shoppe, whose owner became America’s first self-made, female millionaire. And in 1948, WERD, the nation’s first Black-owned and directed radio station, began broadcasting there and offered a rare public venue for black jazz and blues performers during the Jim Crow era but also played a key role in helping Dr. King and SLCC deliver their message.

As part of the restoration and conservation of the Lodge, the Atlanta History Center partnered with the Masons to catalog the papers and other artifacts that were located within the Lodge. Meanwhile, NPS is requesting extensive oral histories with community members, family, and friends who played important roles with the SCLC headquarters and WERD Radio.

Through our Black History and Culture Initiative, TPL is formally partnering with NPS and others, to restore these sites to tell the vivid and honest history of America’s failures and triumphs in the struggle for civil rights. Today’s announcement is the first project in the newly formed Alliance for Civil Rights Historic Sites program in partnership with NPS and local leaders.

“In our fifty years, TPL has a long and notable history of working with communities to preserve places of incredible historical significance. TPL is proud to say that we were there at the founding of MLK National Historic Park and honored to have helped facilitate the protection of many of those original buildings. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to kick off TPL’s Alliance for Civil Rights Historic Sites Program than by protecting and adding the Lodge to MLK National Historic Park,” continued Dusenbury. “Raising an additional $2.5 million will allow us to fully restore this incredible piece of history and allow the Park Service to more deeply share the story of Dr. King’s work with the SCLC.”

Conserving sites of significance to Black culture and history has long been a part of TPL’s work of protecting land and creating parks, with community and equity always at the center. From the Nicodemus National Historic Site in the Kansas Plains to Pullman National Monument in Chicago, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Trust for Public Land and supporters have helped preserve and create public access to the historic buildings and outdoor spaces that tell the story of Black life in America. But of the 95,000 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, only 3 percent focus on the experiences of Black Americans. More work needs to be done and TPL hopes to help continue leading those efforts with communities across the country.


About Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit