“The Bronzeville three-flat where groundbreaking Black musician Nat King Cole grew up, a city landmark that was in poor condition, has been rehabbed and all three units rented out.
“Developer Jaroslaw Madry redid the greystone at 4023 S. Vincennes Ave. with an eye on its history, Edwards said. ‘He loves the fact that Nat King Cole lived there and bought some old albums — some of them originals — to frame and hang in the lobby,’ she said.
“When Madry bought it, for $410,000 according to the Cook County clerk, it had changed hands three times in the previous five years. ‘It was empty and in poor condition,’ Edwards said, but it’s not clear how long the building sat unoccupied.
“Along with a gut rehab of the interior and upgrades for the climate systems, Madry restored the greystone exterior, installed new windows and put on a re-created metal parapet at the top of the facade. To see the changes, compare the image at the top of the story to a photo from 2019 found on Flickr.
“Restoring the building for present and future use was important, Edwards said. ‘It would be a shame to lose that history,’ she said.
“Nathaniel Coles — who later dropped the ‘s’ from his last name — was 4 years old in 1923 when he moved to Chicago from Montgomery, Ala., with his parents, Edward and Perlina, and older brother. The family moved into the greystone on Vincennes and later added two more boys. Crain’s couldn’t determine which floor the Coles family lived on.
“As a student at Wendell Phillips High School, Nathaniel would climb out his bedroom window and go listen to the music coming out of music clubs on the part of State Street known as “The Stroll” and elsewhere in Bronzeville.
“In 1934, at age 15, he dropped out of high school to become a musician, and in 1936 he and older brother Eddie formed a musical group called Eddie Cole’s Swingsters. In 1937, Nat Cole moved to Los Angeles, where he forged a soaring musical career, with such indelible tunes as ‘Unforgettable’ and ‘Mona Lisa.'” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/28/23)
Preservation Chicago has long advocated for a Chicago Jazz, Blues, and Gospel Thematic Landmark District that would recognize and protect the places and spaces where Chicago musicians made history.