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Blues Legend Muddy Waters’ Former Home Is Now A Chicago Landmark

KENWOOD — The former South Side home of blues legend Muddy Waters is now a city landmark.

Built in 1891, Waters and his family lived on the first floor of the home at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. in Kenwood for nearly two decades, playing host to a bevy of music legends, including Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry, on the second floor. Waters and his contemporaries practiced in the basement.

The home, known as the “unofficial center for the Chicago Blues community,” was one of three projects City Council unanimously approved for landmark status Thursday. The landmark designation protects the home from demolition and its exterior, which is largely intact from when Waters resided there, can not be significantly changed.

Local Ald. Sophia King (4th), whose family also is from the Mississippi Delta as Waters is, said she “wholeheartedly” supported the landmark status Tuesday as the Zoning Committee also unanimously approved the measure.

“Having his particular home landmarked here in the city of Chicago would also be not only something that recognizes his contributions, but will also recognize the contributions of the Blues to Chicago,” she said.

 Born McKinley Morganfield, the singer and guitarist bought the home in 1954 and lived there until 1973.

Waters and his wife offered “open door hospitality,” to local and traveling musicians, providing food, drink and lodging, according to Kandalyn Hahn, project coordinator for the city’s planning and development department.

“Chicago shaped his music and he made Chicago synonymous with the Blues,” Hahn said on Tuesday. “Waters’ home…was at the center of this cultural shift.”

During Waters’ 19 years as a North Kenwood resident, he recorded Chicago blues classics “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy” and other hit songs.

Alongside other Black performers who moved north during the Great Migration, Waters’ music helped establish Chicago as the hub for a modern, electric take on Delta blues. The city’s blues scene had a major influence on the development of rock ‘n’ roll.

Waters’ great-granddaughter, Chandra Cooper, who owns the home and supports the landmark push, intends to open the MOJO Museum there in the musician’s honor. Cooper’s mother, Amelia, was raised in the home.

Plans include displays of Waters’ memorabilia in a first-floor museum space and a revived space for jam sessions and a recording studio in the basement. A community garden will fill a vacant lot next to the home.

“We believe it is essential — culturally and for the legacy of African American history — that this home is designated a city of Chicago landmark,” Chandra Cooper previously said.

Renovations to Waters’ former home have been boosted by a $50,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and $2,500 in matching funds from Landmarks Illinois.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
The buildings at 1730–1732 and 1800 N. Halsted St. are both owned by developer Laramar Group.

City Council also approved landmark status for a group of four buildings in Lincoln Park at the corner of North Halsted Street and West Willow Street, described as a “gateway” to the neighborhood.

Built in the late 1880s by ethnic-German owners, the three-story Italianate and Queen Anne mixed-use brick buildings currently house restaurants on the ground floors. 

Hahn said Tuesday the buildings’ “outstanding integrity and proximity, create a rare grouping that have been noted as a highly localized node of activity for nearly 140 years.”

“People always recognize that one of the hallmarks of the Lincoln Park community is its historic structures. So the fact that the buildings on these corners have been preserved up until this time, it really is the gateway to this part of Lincoln Park,” said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), whose ward shares the buildings with 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins.

Both Smith and Hopkins acknowledged the longtime efforts of local residents and preservationists to push for the landmark status. “These buildings are so worth saving. It is such an important part of the history of the North Side of Chicago,” Hopkins said.

Smith rejected a development proposal that would have torn down the building at 1800 N. Halsted St.

The Monastery of the Holy Cross, formerly the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 3111 S Aberdeen St. in Bridgeport, also received landmark status Thursday. 

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Author: Justin Laurence


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