“The costly rehab of the North Kenwood home of blues icon Muddy Waters is ‘out of the woods,’ thanks to the announcement of a city grant that will go toward interior renovations, according to the musician’s great-granddaughter, who is the project’s leader.
“Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced this afternoon a community development grant of $116,152 was awarded to the Mojo Museum, as Chandra Cooper, the bluesman’s descendant, calls the future use of the Lake Park Avenue two-flat that has been in family hands since 1954.
“The money, for interior renovations, follows a $250,000 grant for exterior renovations that the city’s landmarks commission made to the Mojo Museum in early March.
“The combined $366,000 ‘gets us out of the woods on this big project,’ Cooper told Crain’s. ‘We can do the things that need to be done to get our doors open.’ Cooper said she hopes to have the building open for public tours—if not yet fully functioning as a museum—by the end of 2022.
“In 2020, the National Trust for Historic Preservation gave the Mojo Museum $50,000 to start renovations. In October, the Chicago City Council voted to landmark the red-brick building that was home to the Blues innovator and six-time Grammy winner. Mississippi-born McKinley Morganfield, who took the stage name Muddy Waters, lived, rehearsed and housed fellow musicians there from 1954 until the late 1970s, when he moved with his children to Westmont.
“The building has not been occupied for at least a decade and ‘needs everything,’ said Mike Mitchell, the contractor whose Bronzeville firm, Mitchell Development Consultants, is handling both exterior and interior work. Mitchell said the goal is to build out the first-floor interior in a way that approximates the look from Muddy Waters’ time in the house.
“The exterior is being restored to the same vintage: A modern metal canopy and wrought iron stair rails that were tacked onto the 19th-century building during Waters’ years in the house are being cleaned and straightened out, to be put back on, Mitchell said.
“Cooper said that with the building’s future more certain, she is now discussing with Ald. Sophia King, 4th, the possibility of acquiring the city-owned vacant lot next door, to incorporate into the museum plan. King did not respond to a request for comment placed with her office.
“The grant to the Mojo Museum was one of 26 totaling about $33.5 million that Lightfoot and Maurice Cox, commissioner of planning and development, announced at an afternoon event at the former Overton Elementary School on 49th Street. The money is a combination of city bond funds and federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. Recipients included health programs, coffee roasters and others scattered around 19 community areas in the city. (For the full list, see below.)
“The idea is to ‘lift up all our neighborhoods so they can take part in an equitable and sustained recovery,’ Lightfoot said. She wanted the money deployed to ‘people who have toiled in the vineyard for so long, reimagining hidden jewels in the community.’ (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business 5/2/22)
Rehab of Muddy Waters home ‘out of the woods’ with new city grant; Chicago awarded $33.5 million in community development grants to 26 companies, including health centers, neighborhood projects, coffee roasters and restaurants, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/2/22