WIN: Approximately 33k Petition Signatures and Round-the-Clock Advocacy Effort Defeats Proposed House Museum Ban Ordinance

Petition to Reject the Proposed House Museum Ban Ordinance with 32,677 signatures. Photo Credit: City of Chicago / Ward Miller

THANK YOU to the nearly 33 thousand individuals who signed the petition to reject the proposed House Museum Ban ordinance. This petition by Preservation Chicago, our media outreach campaign, and advocacy effort in partnership with community organizations throughout Chicago played an important role in helping to defeat an ordinance that would have been devastating for dozens of house museums and cultural centers across Chicago.

In less than one week, the speed and magnitude of signatures helped thrust the proposed House Museum Ban ordinance out of the shadows and into the spotlight. This story seized the attention of Chicago and beyond. Many unknown details were revealed through the outstanding reporting of many Chicago reporters in over two dozen articles.

Preservation Chicago presented the petition along with a formal comment in opposition to the proposed house ban ordinance at the Zoning Committee of the Chicago City Council on March 23, 2021. Final petition totals were 1,488 pages of signatures and 35 pages of comments. Due to the advocacy effort and widespread opposition, the ordinance was withdrawn from a vote shortly before the hearing begin.

While the immediate danger has passed, the inspiring, diverse coalition of organizations and individuals that organized to resist the proposed ordinance will remain vigilant in the event that it resurfaces. We applaud every individual and organization that played a role in helping to oppose this legislation.

We strongly oppose any legislative maneuvers that seek to make more difficult the establishment of Chicago neighborhood house museums. In fact, we strongly encourage additional support to help nurture them.

Now is the time to recognize, honor and protect the many important contributions of African-Americans and traditionally underrepresented communities to Chicago. House museums are powerful vehicles for protecting the history and telling the stories of those who have come before us. House museums amplify the voices of those who have not been heard. It is essential that these voices be heard.

The following emerging museums would have been directly impacted by this ordinance:

  • The Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Home – which achieved Chicago Landmark status after a multi-year effort to save it. It was purchased by a local nonprofit to create a museum to honor Emmett’s memory and to recognize the fierce bravery of Mamie Till-Mobley whose actions helped to spark the Civil Rights Movement.
  • The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum – which plans to turn Muddy’s South Side Chicago home into a blues museum. It would celebrate his legendary contributions to blues music which emerged from the Great Migration and would forever change music in America and around the world.
  • The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum expansion – which celebrates and honors the legacy of the Pullman Porters and the important role African-Americans played in shaping America’s labor and Civil Rights movement.
  • The Lu Palmer Mansion – which is on the verge of being purchased and converted into The Obsidian Collection museum and library, an archive of Black journalism.
  • The Phyllis Wheatley House – which is the last standing African-American settlement house in Chicago, and served African-American women for 50 years during the Great Migration.
  • Sajdah House Elijah Muhammad House Museum – To celebrate the legacy of Elijah Muhammad and share the impact of African American entrepreneurship.

Over the past few years, Preservation Chicago worked tirelessly with community members, Blacks in Green, Naomi Davis, the Till Family, 20th Ward Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor, and city officials towards a Chicago Landmark Designation of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House.

The Justice D. Harry Hammer / Lu & Jorja Palmer Mansion was a Preservation Chicago 2019 Chicago 7 Most Endangered and we have been working with Angela Davis of The Obsidian Collection to restore and reactive the historic building.

The Phyllis Wheatley Home is a Preservation Chicago 2021 Chicago 7 Most Endangered and we have been working with urgency to protect and stabilize this historic home with owner Dr. JoAnn Cobb Tate so that a long-term solution can honor its important legacy.

Read more at:

Alderman’s bid to restrict ‘house museums’ draws outrage from emerging tourism sector; An ordinance introduced by Ald. Sophia King (4th) to restrict “house museums” in residential neighborhoods has drawn outrage from a small but passionate community of existing or planned operators of such museums — including projects honoring Black history icons Emmett Till, Phyllis Wheatley, Lu Palmer and Muddy Waters, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, Mar 17, 2021

An alderman’s bid to restrict house museums is withdrawn — and should stay that way; What troubles us: Ald. Sophia King’s proposal is a solution in search of a problem, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, Mar 24, 2021.

Chicago alderman withdraws residential museum rules plan for projects such as former homes of Emmett Till and Muddy Waters, John Bryne, Chicago Tribune, Mar 23, 2021  

Amid broad opposition, alderman drops proposal on house museums; Mayor Lori Lightfoot yesterday came out against Sophia King’s ordinance, which could have slowed development of five South Side museums dedicated to their former Black residents, including Emmett Till and Muddy Waters, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, Mar 23, 2021 

Alderman withdraws ordinance that would have restricted ‘house museums’; The decision by Ald. Sophia King (4th) was announced at the start of Tuesday’s meeting of the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, 

Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, Mar 23, 2021 

Opposition to ordinance restricting ‘house museums’ grows: Arts, preservation groups condemn effort; Entities from the Art Institute of Chicago to the international Society of Architectural Historians are condemning the effort as throwing cold water on an emerging tourism sector, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, Mar 22, 2021 

Lightfoot Tosses Cold Water on Plan to Require Special Permission for House Museums, Heather Cherone & Quinn Myers, WTTW Chicago, Mar 22, 2021 

Residential Museum Ban Would Be ‘Death Knell’ For South Side Preservation, Black History Museums And Gallery Spaces, Critics Say; If Ald. Sophia King’s proposal passes, it would restrict cultural projects at the Emmett Till residence, the Lu and Jorja Palmer mansion, the Phyllis Wheatley Home and other small libraries and gallery spaces. Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, Mar 18, 2021 

Emmett Till, Muddy Waters museums would slow under this proposed rule; Ald. Sophia King is shepherding a measure that would require zoning approval for turning historic houses into museums. For those trying to preserve Black history in Chicago, “it feels like she pulled the rug out from under us.” Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, Mar 17, 2021 

King’s ordinance to restrict new house museums opposed by community groups, Marc Monaghan and Christian Belanger, Hyde Park Herald, Mar 19, 2021 

Groups oppose bid to require city approval for museums like those planned for Emmett Till, Muddy Waters homes, John Byrne, Chicago Tribune, Mar 18, 2021 


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