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Site where MLK worked on tobacco farm in Simsbury to be preserved for open space, history

The land will also be used for recreational access and municipal use.

SIMSBURY, Conn. — A 255-acre former tobacco farm that had a major impact on the life of one of the greatest civil rights leaders in U.S. history will now be preserved for recreation and history.

On Monday, the town of Simsbury announced that the Meadowood property was purchased and will be part of a land trust.

The Meadowood Property consists of 288 acres on Firetown and Hoskins Road. It was the site of a tobacco farm in the 1940s. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the college students hired to work the farm during the summers while World War II raged on. King's experience in Connecticut, and seeing the differences in how African Americans were treated in the north, was instrumental in shaping his worldview.

He described the experience in letters home as liberating and traced his decision to calling to the ministry in the summer of 1944 and his time in Connecticut.

 RELATED: Connecticut honors legacy of Dr. King with unveiling of permanent memorial in Simsbury

Simsbury voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of purchasing the land in a May referendum for $2.5 million.

"The State of Connecticut will hold an easement for recreational access on nearly 130 acres and about 120 acres is to be preserved as working farmland," a statement released Monday said. "The Town of Simsbury has 24 acres set aside for future municipal needs and 2 acres are designated for historic preservation, including interpretive elements that share the special history of the land."

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"Additional funding for protecting the land comes from the State of Connecticut through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture, and State Historic Preservation Office, the US Fish and Wildlife Service through the Highlands Conservation Act, the George Dudley Seymour Trust, and many generous individuals, foundations and funders," said officials.

According to officials, only two percent of sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places focus on the experiences of Black Americans. 

RELATED: Connecticut had lasting influence on Dr. Martin Luther King

In the last decade, there were proposals to develop the land for housing, but those were met with opposition from residents. 

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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