“McKinley Morganfield was born in rural Issaquena County, Mississippi, in 1913, the son of a sharecropper who played guitar on weekends. His mother died not long after he was born, and he was raised by his grandmother.
“She’s the one who gave him the nickname ‘Muddy,’ stemming from his ‘muddying’ for fish in a nearby creek. And when he picked up his first musical instrument, the harmonica — moving on to guitar in his teens — no one could have predicted Morganfield was destined to become the international blues legend ‘Muddy Waters.’ That would come after he headed north in the Great Migration, settling in Chicago.
“And on Thursday, the home in the South Side North Kenwood neighborhood where the blues icon lived and raised his family moved a step closer to becoming a city of Chicago landmark, granted preliminary landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
“‘Muddy Waters was one of the most important figures in the development of the distinctive electrified sound that came to be known as the ‘Chicago blues.’ Muddy Waters skillfully married the raw acoustic Delta blues he learned in Mississippi, with amplification, to create a powerful new urban sound,’ Kendalyn Hahn, project coordinator at the Chicago Department of Planning & Development told the commission.
“‘This 1891 structure served as the home of the blues musician and his family from 1954 to 1973. And musicians who came to record or perform in Chicago made the home an unofficial center for the Chicago blues community, a community largely composed of African Americans whose gifts to the world not only shaped American popular music and subsequent generations of musicians, but one which gave the world a uniquely American art form, which speaks to the incredible resilience of the human spirit,’ Hahn said.
“The property at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. is owned by Waters’ great-granddaughter, Chandra Cooper, who is converting the brick two-flat — where Waters lived on the first floor, rented out the top floor and had his recording studio in the basement — into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum. The preliminary designation passed unanimously.
“The project is among burgeoning efforts to honor Black history in a post-George Floyd era, and part of a wave of house museums — including those honoring Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley, Phyllis Wheatley, and Lu and Jorja Palmer — that nearly got blocked by a failed ordinance earlier this year by Ald. Sophia King (4th) to limit them.
“The Waters house is in the 4th Ward, and while Cooper and King have sparred over roadblocks in recent months, King on Thursday spoke ardently in support of the designation.
“‘So I lived these stories. To have somebody like Muddy Waters who really put the blues and rock ’n’ roll on the stage, not just here in Chicago but across the country and the world, I’m personally proud. All of the challenges I know he was faced with to break down such barriers and do such significant things — this is a no-brainer for me.’
“On behalf of the family of McKinley Morganfield, we believe it essential for the legacy of African American history that this home be designated a landmark,” Chandra Cooper told the commission, accompanied by her mother, Waters’ granddaughter, Amelia Cooper.” (Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/3/21)
Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times
South Side home of blues legend Muddy Waters a step closer to city landmark status; The home in North Kenwood where blues legend Muddy Waters lived was granted preliminary landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday. A great-granddaughter is converting the property at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/3/21
Muddy Waters’ Kenwood Home On Its Way To Being Named A Chicago Landmark; Waters’ family is working to turn the “epicenter” of Chicago blues into a museum, with space for a new generation of local musicians to jam, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 6/3/21
Muddy Waters house gets unanimous boost from landmarks commission; The effort to get landmark designation for the North Kenwood two-flat next goes to the full City Council, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/3/21
Muddy Waters landmark talk is about to shift into high gear; An official effort launches in early June to get the two-flat on South Lake Park Avenue declared a city landmark, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/24/21
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.
- The Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Home
- The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum
- The Lu Palmer Mansion / The Obsidian Collection
- Elijah Muhammad House Museum/Sajdah House
- The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum expansion
- The Phyllis Wheatley House
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.
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.
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,