Time stopped when Martin Luther King Jr. was slain. But the Lorraine at last moved ahead.

The Lorraine Motel was a piece of Tennessee history long before it was known for being the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, but the motel’s story couldn’t be separated from that tragic night.

The Memphis site originally was an all-white establishment known as the Windsor Hotel, founded in the mid-1920s. In 1945, the one-story hotel was bought by Walter and Loree Bailey and became a haven for African-American travelers. A business that blacks could once only be welcomed inside as domestic workers soon became a symbol of black entrepreneurship.  

The Baileys’ motel was featured in The Negro Motorist Green Book, or the “Green Guide,” which aided black travelers looking for a place to stay when Jim Crow laws made it near impossible to find accommodations. 

24 PHOTOS
The history of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the site of Martin Luther King Jr. assassination
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The history of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the site of Martin Luther King Jr. assassination
Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down by assassin. (Photo by Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Dr. Ralph Abernathy (1929 - 1990) and Jesse Jackson (both obscured) and others stand on the balcony of Lorraine motel and point in the direction of gun shots that killed American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968), who lies at their feet, Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968. (Photo by Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Exterior view of the Lorraine Motel in the hours after the assassination of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968. (Photo by Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
In room 306 of the Lorraine motel, the arm of an unidentified man hold a copy of the book 'Strength to Love' by Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was assassinated just outside the room the previous evening, Memphis, Tennessee, April 5, 1968. The small case contains King's personal effects. (Photo by Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) View through a simulated telescopic gunsight shows what the killer of Dr. Martin Luther King may have seen just before he fired the fatal bullet on April 4th at the balcony of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King stood talking to friends. The photograph was made from the bathroom window of the rooming house from which police believe the assassin fired his rifle.
(Original Caption) Memphis, Tenn.: Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Rev. A.D. King, brother of the slain civil rights leader unveil a commemorative plaque on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was shot death.
(Original Caption) A wreath is attached to the outside door of Room #306 of the Lorraine Motel which Dr. Martin Luther King occupied before he was fatally shot as he leaned over a railing outside the room talking to friends.
The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot outside of rooms 306 and 307 on April 4, 1968. The motel is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. (Photo by Ben Noey Jr./Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
Standing in front of the former Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination on April 4, 1968, Memphis sanitation workers Elmore Nickelberry, 76, center, and his son, Terrence, left, hold a replica of the placard used by strikers in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 15: Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - APRIL 08: Photo of MEMPHIS; The Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968 (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
Sheree Fenison, 9, of New Hope Baptist Church in Lake Village, Arkansas, stares at the last room where Martin Luther King slept. On Martin Luther King's birthday, crowds visit The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he was assassinated on the evening of April 4th, 1968. The hotel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, has made an exhibit out of the original room Dr. King stayed in, #306, and the balcony right outside where he was slain. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 25: A general view of the exterior of the Lorraine Motel which is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum on May 25, 2013 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot outside of rooms 306 and 307 on April 4, 1968. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
View of the facade of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, January 15, 2014. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 25: A general view of the exterior of the Lorraine Motel which is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum on May 25, 2013 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot outside of rooms 306 and 307 on April 4, 1968. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS - OCTOBER 03: 'Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Room 306' exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on October 3, 2016. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Orlando Colbert puts a broom away as he helps prepare the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered and is now part of the complex of the National Civil Rights Museum, for the 50th anniversary of his assassination on April 1, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the next few days, the city will commemorate his legacy before his death on the balcony outside room 306 on April 4, 1968. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A view of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his last night, is seen on the grounds of the National Civil Rights Museum, April 3, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was assassinated 50 years ago on April 4, 1968, as he stepped to the balcony outside the room. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A wreath hangs on the balcony of the former Lorraine Motel, now part of the National Civil Rights Museum, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee April 2, 2008. April 4th will mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the civil rights leader who was shot as he stood on the balcony by James Earl Ray. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES)
A view of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his last night, is seen on the grounds of the National Civil Rights Museum, April 3, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was assassinated 50 years ago on April 4, 1968, as he stepped to the balcony outside the room. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Students stare out a window at the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, at the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, April 3. People from across the United States are gathering in Memphis to commemorate King on April 4, the 30th anniversary of his death. KING ANNIVERSARY
A view of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his last night, is seen on the grounds of the National Civil Rights Museum, April 3, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was assassinated 50 years ago on April 4, 1968, as he stepped to the balcony outside the room. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rev. Jesse Jackson speaking with family members on the balcony outside room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, is seen on the grounds of the National Civil Rights Museum, April 3, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was assassinated 50 years ago on April 4, 1968, as he stepped to the balcony. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Lorraine was a thriving black-owned business before King’s murder and before becoming the National Civil Rights Museum, museum President Terri Freeman told HuffPost. 

“It was a fun place,” Freeman told HuffPost. “It was a place where [Stax Records] artists used to hang out because the black artists, you know, the Stax artists were an integrated group that couldn’t stay together at a lot of places. So they used to come to the Lorraine.”

Everything changed the night King went out onto the balcony by Room 306. 

Loree Bailey, the motel’s namesake, suffered a stroke hours after King was shot and died five days later, when the world buried King. Walter spent the next 14 years trying to keep the Lorraine afloat, and never rented Rooms 306 or 307 again. 

The motel couldn’t sustain itself after the tragedy. As the years went by, the Lorraine fell into disrepair and became a popular spot for prostitutes to rent rooms as the neighborhood declined. Walter Bailey filed for bankruptcy in 1982 and died six years later. 

But what was happening, apparently, was that even when the building was chained up and boarded up, people were coming and would put a wreath up on the balcony,” Freeman told HuffPost. “And people would come to the museum just to view from outside, where this great peacemaker was shot down. And so there were business people in this community that realized it was important to preserve this place because history had occurred.”

People organized and privately fundraised the money to keep the historic motel from the auction block in an effort to create what is now known as the National Civil Rights Museum.

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Martin Luther King Jr. through the years
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Martin Luther King Jr. through the years
circa 1953: Headshot of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968), American civil rights leader and pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, wearing his vestments. (Photo by Michael Evans/New York Times Co./Getty Images)
Former Senator Lehman presents 'Americans for Democratic Action' scroll to Reverend Martin Luther King at the Astor Hotel. February 03, 1961. (Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights campaigner and famous orator, portrait of a young man, in a black suit and tie with his head tilted., 1955. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend Ralph Abernathy are shown 'integrating' one of the first buses in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. This scene is from the striking three-hour feature film, King: A Filmed Record. . .Montgomery to Memphis, to be presented for the first time on television on WPIX TV, Channel 11, Tuesday, April 4, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., in observance of the fourth anniversary of the death of Dr. King. 1955.
American civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968) speaks as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, March 20, 1956. (Photo by George Tames/New York Times Co./Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - MAY 1956: Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. relaxes at home in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - MAY 1956: Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. relaxes at home with his family in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - MAY 1956: Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. relaxes at home with his family in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - MAY 13: Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks with people after delivering a sermon on May 13, 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King speaking from pulpit at mass meeting about principles of non-violence before leading assembly to ride newly integrated busses after successful boycott. (Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. standing at the Lincoln Memorial with police officers and posing to a photographer during 'Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom' in Washington, D.C. in 1957. (Photo By Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
A rear view of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1957. (Photo By Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd during 'Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom' at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1957. (Photo By Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (C) talking to an unidentified man. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 9/30/1958-New York, NY: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., poses with his mother (Left) and his wife at Harlem Hospital here Sept. 30th during his first newsconference since being stabbed by Mrs. Izola Curry on Sept. 20th. King said he had no ill will towards Mrs. Curry. He added that he knows thoughtful people will do all in their power to see that she gets the help she apparently needs if it becomes a free and constructive member of Society.
American Civil Rights and religious leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) holds his infant daughter, Yolanda King (1955 - 2007), in his arms, 1956. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
American Civil Rights and religious leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) bends down as he speaks with a group of schoolgirls in a classroom, January 1960. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM BENEFIT SHOW: Martin Luther King Jr., left, and an unidentified man address the crowd during the Salute to Freedom concert. (Photo By Grey Villet/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)
Martin Luther King, Jr., Close-Up During Speech, circa 1960's. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
On the campus of Atlanta University (later renamed Clark Atlanta University) to discuss 'sit-in' protests, American religious and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929 � 1968) (fore) sits with his hands on his knee, as future politician (and Washington DC mayor) Marion Barry stands behind him, Atlanta, Georgia, mid-May, 1960. (Photo by Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Civil Rights ldr. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holding his son Martin III as his daughter Bernice and wife Coretta greet him at the airport upon his release from Georgia State prison after incarceration for leading boycotts. (Photo by Donald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
After Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is freed from jail under a $2000 appeal bond, he is greeted by his wife Coretta and children, Marty and Yoki, at the airport in Chamblee, Georgia.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (3R) participating in planning session for Freedom Riders' bus trip from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Freedom Riders' leaders Reverend Metz Rollins and Martin Luther King Jr. sitting on a church bench with an unidentified person during the Freedom Rider crisis in May of 1961.
Rev. Martin Luther king (L), and attorneys Mrs. Constance Motley and William Kunstler enter their car here 7/25 after a federal judge issued a stay of another jurist's injunction against integration demonstrations at Albany, Ga. King, leader of racial demonstrations over the South, said he would return to Albany immediately.
(Original Caption) 4/12/1963-Birmingham, AL: A police officer grabs Southern integration leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., by the seat of his trousers in jailing him for leading an anti-segregation march.
American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968) (center, pointig with right hand) leads a march to a rally against racial discrimination at Coho Hall, Detroit, Michigan, June 23, 1963. Among those with him are Reverend Clarence Franklin (1915 - 1984) (third from left, holding King's right arm) and Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh (1928 ? 1979) (second right). (Photo by Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his I Have a Dream speech to huge crowd gathered for the Mall in Washington DC during the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom (aka the Freedom March). (Photo by Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Overhead view of the massive crowd assembled on the Mall in front of the Reflecting Pool and between the Lincoln and Washington monuments during the civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington DC, August 28, 1963. It was at this rally that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech. (Photo by Robert W. Kelley/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
View of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968, center) at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where he would deliver his 'I Have a Dream' speech, Washington DC, 28th August 1963. (Photo by Rowland Scherman/Getty Images)
View of some of the leaders of March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom as they prepare to march, Washington DC, August 28, 1963. Among those pictured are, front row from third left, John Lewis (holding manila fodler), Matthew Ahman,Floyd B. McKissick (1922 - 1991), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968), Reverend Eugene Carson Blake (1906 - 1985), Cleveland Robinson (1914 - 1995), Joachim Prinz (hidden), unidentified (hidden), Whitney Young (1921 - 1971), Roy Wilkins (1901 - 1981), Walter Reuther (1907 - 1970), and A. Philip Randolph (1889 - 1979). The march provided the setting for Dr. King's iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech. (Photo by Robert W. Kelley/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) three-quarter-length portrait, standing, face front, at a press conference. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
12th August 1964: American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968) waves with his children, Yolanda and Martin Luther III, from the 'Magic Skyway' ride at the Worlds Fair, New York City. The ride was a replica of a Ford convertible. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
President Lyndon B Johnson (1908 - 1973) discusses the Voting Rights Act with civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968). The act, part of President Johnson's 'Great Society' program trebled the number of black voters in the south, who had previously been hindered by racially inspired laws, 1965. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holds a picture of three missing civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman (l to r) during a press conference. The bodies of the three men were later found near Philadelphia, Mississippi and the
LOS ANGELES -1965: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sits at a table during The Nation Institute California Conference circa 1965 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Martin Mills/Getty Images)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964 Nobel peace Prize winner and leader of the American Negro civil rights movement for more than a decade, addresses an integrated audience during a testimonial dinner in his honor here 1/27. The dinner was held in one of the city's largest downtown hotels.
American religious and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) watches US President Lyndon Johnson on television, Selma, Alabama, March 1965. (Photo by Frank Dandridge/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
'(from left to right) Harry Belafonte, Chairman Reverend Martin Luther King and Sammy Davis, Jr., Co-Chairmen for the Broadway Answers Selma benefit at the Majestic Theater. April 06, 1965. (Photo by Jerry Engel/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)'
FRANCE - OCTOBER 24: Portrait of the American Baptist Martin LUTHER KING Jr. on a trip to Paris. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964 for his peaceful action to obtain civil rights for African Americans in the USA. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Martin Luther King, Jr. meets with President Eisenhower at the White House. (Photo by � CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Civil Rights leaders walk arm in arm at a march in Canton, Mississippi. CORE leader Floyd McKissick (c) and Stokely Carmichael of SNCC (r) support the Black Power movement while Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (l) stresses non-violent racial integration.
Martin Luther King, Jr., wearing a hat and sunglasses calls out 'All right, all right, we're gonna march, we're gonna march straight south' as he leads marchers across the Coldwater River Bridge in Coldwater, Mississippi. Dr. King resumed James Meredith' | Location: Coldwater, Mississippi, USA.
WASHINGTON - APRIL 16: FACE THE NATION featuring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Image dated: April 16, 1967. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
A portrait of American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), circa 1968. (Photo by RDA/Getty Images)
American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968), watched by Dr. Charles Bousenquet, signs the Degree Roll At Newcastle University after receiving an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree, Newcastle, England, November 14, 1967. (Photo by /Getty Images)
Dr. Martin Luther King press conference held at Sardi's West. June 20, 1967. (Photo by Vic DeLucia/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Washington, DC: Close up of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the phone after delivering a sermon at the Washington Episcopal Cathedral. King predicted a 'right wing takeover and a fascist state' will develop in America by 1980, if Congress does not do more for the poor.
Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference sit in the room of assassinated Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr at the Lorriane Motel (#306) shortly after King's death, Memphis, Tennessee April 4, 1968. Among those present are Andrew Young (at left near lamp, with hand on chin) and Ralph Abernathy (1926 � 1990) (center rear, with round tie pin). (Photo by Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
After the assassination of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr outside the door of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, a group of men stand in front of the room window on the motel's balcony, Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968. Theatrice Bailey (1910 - 1982), brother of the motel's owner, stands at the right. (Photo by Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 4/9/1968-Atlanta, GA: Mule-drawn caisson carrying the casket of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is followed by dignitaries and aids as it moves towards the campus of Morehead College for a memorial service.
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The Lorraine Motel officially closed in 1988 to undergo renovations so that the site could be reopened as a museum three years later. In 2002, the foundation that owned the museum bought the boardinghouse across the street, where it was said James Earl Ray rented the room from which he assassinated King. 

After a $27.5 million renovation four years ago, the National Civil Rights Museum now has 24 exhibits that tell different stories of the American civil rights movement. The Lorraine Motel is a gatekeeper of history, chronicling the journey of black Americans from the time their ancestors were taken from Africa to the day of King’s untimely murder. 

The story of the Lorraine somewhat parallels the story of black Americans, Freeman says, from the days when blacks were banned, to the time it became a bastion of black success and then to fall to tragedy. And now today, it has become a phoenix risen from ashes. 

“When I think of the 50 years that have passed since the murder of Dr. King, I think that, where we are in society today, it’s not happenstance that we’re seeing what we’re seeing today with the Me Too movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Never Again movement,” Freeman told HuffPost. “All this stuff happening 50 years after this very, very significant event, things are ordered in the universe.” 

Taryn Finley contributed reporting this article.  

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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