WIN: After Years of Advocacy, Emmett Till Home Designated Preliminary Chicago Landmark!


“Preservationists and the family of Emmett Till moved a step closer in efforts to landmark the childhood home of the Chicago teen whose murder propelled the Civil Rights Movement, as the Commission on Chicago Landmarks takes up the request Thursday.

“Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20), whose ward includes the home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence where Till spent the last years of his life, submitted a long awaited letter in support of the effort on Friday, which was the 65th anniversary of the seminal event in America’s race history.” (Ihejirika, 8/31/20)

“As the nation commemorates the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till — the 14-year-old Chicagoan whose lynching lit fire to the Civil Rights Movement — one can virtually tour all the historic sites central to this gruesome chapter in American racism. The tour is found on the Emmett Till Memory Project, a downloadable app launched on the 64th anniversary of the seminal event — to enable thoughtful engagement with Till’s story.

“In August 1955, Gordon lived in the brick two-flat building in Woodlawn where Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, occupied the second floor, another aunt and uncle the first floor, and 7-year-old Till family member Ollie Gordon, her parents and four siblings, the basement unit.

“Roberts Temple was designated a Chicago landmark in 2006. But the home where Till lived before leaving on that fateful train trip Down South on Aug. 20, 1955, remains at risk of deterioration or demolition after failure of previous landmark efforts, most recently in 2017.

“The city has not ascribed to any urgency on preserving the home, which has been plastered with city Department of Buildings code violations in recent years while changing hands several times. With the building’s last remaining tenant serving notice he was moving last month, preservationists and Till family members say preservation must take on an urgency.

“‘There was only one tenant living in the second-floor apartment — the Till-Mobley apartment. They said they were moving out because there were issues with the building, pipes bursting in the basement and whatnot. This building is likely now vacant,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, which is leading renewed efforts to save it. ‘It’s more pertinent than ever that it be landmarked, as it’s now extremely vulnerable,’ he said.

“‘We’ve been very sensitive about this building, engaging for the past year in conversations with the Till family to request their permission, even though they’re no longer affiliated with the building. This home represents the legacy carried on by Till’s mother and family. It should be a site of pilgrimage.’

“Preservation Chicago filed a landmark proposal for the property Monday with the city Department of Planning & Development. With approval, that department would submit the request before the Chicago Commission on Landmarks. Designation would prevent any demolition or changes to the original exterior.

“It was on Dec. 1, 1955, 100 days after Till’s murder, that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, later saying she thought of Till in that moment. That would spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by the Rev. Martin Luther King.

“And King, who described Till’s murder as ‘one of the most brutal and inhuman crimes of the twentieth century’ went on to deliver his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963 — eight years to the day that Till was murdered.

“‘That home in Woodlawn is history. That’s the home that Emmett lived in. That was the home he left to board the train to go to Mississippi. It’s history in and of itself, but it’s also part of the Civil Rights Movement, so that home is absolutely deserving of historical status,’ family member Gordon said.

“‘Chicago needs to act. We can’t let efforts to preserve it falter again.”‘ (Ihejirika, 8/27/20)

Read the full story with photos at The Chicago Sun-Times

65 years after Emmett Till murder, his family urges landmark status for Woodlawn home; Preservationists and the family of Emmett Till are urging landmark status for the Woodlawn home where the teen lived before a visit to family Down South ended with his brutal lynching on Aug. 28, 1955 — for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The home has many building code violations, has changed hands several times in recent years and now is believed to be vacant, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/27/20

Emmett Till’s childhood home granted preliminary landmark status; The Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted preliminary landmark status Thursday to the home of Emmett Till, at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave. in Woodlawn, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/3/20

Emmett Till’s house gets landmark panel OK; The next step: Chicago’s City Council, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/3/20  

Commission on Chicago Landmarks to weigh designation for Emmett Till childhood home; Preservationists and the family of Emmett Till are a step closer in efforts to landmark the Woodlawn home where the teen lived before the trip Down South that ended with his brutal lynching on Aug. 28, 1955. The alderman wrote a letter supporting the designation, which Thursday goes before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/31/20

Emmett Till’s home, a launching pad for the civil rights movement, deserves landmark status, Landmark status would further honor Emmett and Mamie Till’s tragic but critical role in American history, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 9/1/20

Column: Emmett Till House takes first step toward landmark status as questions are raised about its future, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 9/3/20

Emmett Till’s Chicago Home Given A Preliminary Landmark Status, Carlie Porterfield, Forbes, 9/3/20

A ‘small but necessary step’: Emmett Till’s Chicago home granted preliminary landmark status, Grace Hauck, USA Today, 9/3/20

Column: Emmett Till house poised to take first step toward official landmark status, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 9/1/20

Emmett Till’s Family Home Given Preliminary Landmark Status, Patty Wetli, WTTW Chicago, 9/3/20

Vision for Emmett Till’s Woodlawn Home Goes Beyond Landmark Status, AJ LaTrace, WTTW Chicago, 8/29/20

Emmett Till House Moves One Step Closer To Landmark Status; The home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence is where Till lived with his family at the time he was killed in Mississippi in 1955, Bob Chiarito, Block Club Chicago, 9/3/20

Groups renew push to landmark Emmett Till’s Woodlawn home, as Taylor says she will support effort, Christian Belanger, Hyde Park Herald, 8/10/20

Commission Board to vote on Emmett Till’s Woodlawn home becoming Chicago Landmark, Karen Jordan, ABC 7 Chicago, 9/3/20

A Matter of Urgency; Preservationists push for the landmarking of Emmett Till’s Chicago home, Matt Hickman, The Architect’s Newspaper, 8/31/20

Preservation Chicago testimony presented by Ward Miller to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on September 3, 2020 in support of the Landmark Recommendation for the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House.

Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks;

We at Preservation Chicago fully and wholeheartedly support the consideration of The Emmett Till and the Mamie Till-Mobley House, in Chicago’s West Woodlawn community as a Designated Chicago Landmark.

We recognize the importance of the building, located at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Avenue, as the home of Emmett Till and his family, residing on multiple floors of the building, with Emmett and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, living on the second floor, with aunts and uncles on the first floor and cousins and extended family, living in the garden apartment. It was truly a family-oriented building in every regard.

The house is a direct connection and link to Emmett Till’s life in Chicago—a child, a person, who walked to the nearby McCosh Elementary School, now renamed in his honor, and he was known for his acts of kindness, helping elderly neighbors and was well liked in the community.

Emmett Till’s visit to Money, Mississippi, to spend time with his extended family, resulted in a tragic and almost unimaginable series of events, which are still difficult to comprehend, even 65 years later. The tragedy of those frightful days have been well documented, and part of history, so we should never forget—the murder of a young teenage child of 14-years of age from Chicago, caught in a world and nation of double standards and injustice.

Today’s meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks—September 3rd , marks the 65th anniversary of the beginnings of Emmett Till’s visitation and funeral, held in part at Robert’s Temple Church of God in Christ, on Chicago’s South Side. A place where tens-of-thousands of mourners—some estimates placed at 100,000 individuals, gathered to pay respects to Emmett’s mother and family, and to bear witness–by an open casket visitation, of such a heinous crime. It is almost provident that we are here today—on this 65th anniversary day, to encourage and support the Chicago Landmark Designation of his beloved Chicago home.

Emmett Till’s death impacted the community and a nation, and had “sparked” many aspects of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The dedication of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to share the story of her son’s senseless death to the world, inspired many, including Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Congressman John Lewis and others.

Today, in a time of social unrest in our nation, Emmett Till’s name is still relevant and heard among peaceful protestors and on placards.It is important, perhaps now more than ever to protect the legacy of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till–Mobley. And this house—their home, is a direct link to the life of Emmett and the work of his mother to make others aware of injustices in our nation and world and to further peace, equality and healing.

This building and it’s potential Chicago Landmark Designation—a great honor bestowed upon this home, will help to further that story, while also being a place of reflection, and also perhaps connecting us in some way to a child that became caught-up in a terrible nightmare of injustice, which fueled many changes and policies in the decades that followed. We therefore, without hesitation, recommend Chicago Landmark Designation of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House.

Special thanks to the family of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, including their cousins, Ollie Gordon and Mr. & Mrs. Wheeler Parker Jr., Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor, Members and neighbors of the West Woodlawn Community, including Naomi Davis of “Blacks in Green,” the Hyde Park Historical Society—Michel Safer and Jack Spicer, William Eager, Senior Vice President of POAH-Chicago and Mr. Blake McCreight, owner of the property, who has consented to the designation. Also, Commissioner Cox, Dijana Cuvalo, Matt Crawford and Kandalyn Hahn of the Department of Planning & Development DPD-Historic Preservation Division; and to Mary Lu Seidel of Preservation Chicago and Jonathan Solomon of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, for their research and dedication to this project and compilation Preliminary Landmark Designation Report.

On behalf of so many supporters across Chicago and extending far beyond our City, we thank you for your support of this Preliminary Landmark Designation today.


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