WIN: City Council Approves Sale of Vacant Lot for Muddy Waters Mojo Museum Garden

Muddy Waters House Museum Garden, 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. Rendering Credit: Bauer Latoza Studio
Muddy Waters House Museum Garden, 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. Rendering Credit: Bauer Latoza Studio

“Plans to create an outdoor performance space for the forthcoming Muddy Waters Mojo Museum moved forward this week, with City Council’s approval to sell an adjacent vacant lot to the museum.

“On Wednesday, City Council approved the sale of 4337 S. Lake Park Ave., a city-owned lot in North Kenwood, to Chandra Cooper, great-granddaughter of McKinley Morganfield, known professionally as Muddy Waters. Sold for $7,556, the lot will become a landscaped yard and outdoor performance space for the Mojo Museum, under development at the blues legend’s former home next-door.

“‘I am very emotional – I’m elated,’ said Cooper after the Jan. 23 vote. ‘I am full of joy that this vision that was placed inside of me years ago is now coming into full fruition.’

“The lot is the last piece of a legacy-forming puzzle that Cooper has been putting together since 2000, when she and her mother, Amelia Cooper, purchased Waters’ historic residence, 4339 S. Lake Park Ave.

“According to Cook County records, the Coopers purchased the residence from Waters’ estate for $60,000. In 2002, almost two decades after Waters’ death, Chandra Cooper became sole owner of the property. Cooper’s plan has been and continues to be the development of the vacant lot and the adjacent historic home into a single campus.

“‘Muddy Waters offered open-door hospitality at his 4339 South Lake Park Avenue home,” continues the report. “It was the only residence the musician ever owned in the City of Chicago and became an unofficial center of artistic activity for blues musicians.’

“The basement of the residence became a rehearsal room and a place where ‘new songs were created and shaped,” the report reads. Musicians were welcomed at all hours; Otis Spann, James Cotton, Little Walter, Junior Wells and Paul Oscher stayed at the two-flat, ready to play at a ‘moment’s notice.’ Other musicians, including Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry used the home as a base while working in Chicago.

“After almost two decades of bearing the financial burden of owning and maintaining the property – in 2013, the property even faced the threat of demolition by the city – Cooper’s efforts started to bear fruit.

In 2019, she incorporated the Muddy Waters Mojo Museum as a nonprofit organization, and it began receiving its first grants within a year. In 2020, the National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund awarded the museum $50,000 for renovations, and Landmarks Illinois awarded the museum $2,500 with its first Timuel D. Black Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side award.

“The following year, the residence received a coveted Chicago Landmark designation and additional grants for restoration work.

“In 2022, the museum received grants totaling $375,000 from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, the city’s inaugural Together We Heal Creative Place Program and the Linda D. Friedman Family Foundation. In March of last year, the museum received $1.1 from the Mellon Foundation for continuing restoration work.” (Monaghan, Hyde Park Herald, 1/25/24)

We’re thrilled that the long-endangered Muddy Waters home is finally receiving the financial support it needs to be restored. We will continue to support this effort until the MOJO Museum celebrates its grand opening.

For years, Preservation Chicago urged the City of Chicago to sell the vacant adjacent lot to MOJO Museum for $1 in recognition of Chandra Cooper’s dedication in face of adversity and her fierce love for this important part of Chicago’s cultural heritage.

Preservation Chicago has worked very closely with neighborhood preservation partners and has played a strong role in supporting the effort to protect and landmark the Muddy Waters home. Additionally, our petition with nearly 33,000 signatures and other advocacy efforts played a decisive role in publicizing the proposed House Museum Ban ordinance that would have been devastating for emerging house museums like the Muddy Waters home, and scores of arts and cultural centers across Chicago.

We continue to advocate for a Chicago Jazz, Blues, and Gospel Thematic Landmark District that would recognize and protect the places and spaces where Chicago musicians made history.

Read the full story at the Hyde Park Herald

 

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