The Chicago City Council has landmarked the home of Blues great Muddy Waters today, capping a months-long effort by preservationists and the musician’s family to gain official recognition of the historic house in North Kenwood.
Mississippi-born as McKinley Morganfield, who took the stage name Muddy Waters, bought the red-brick two-flat on South Lake Park Avenue in 1954 and lived there until the late 1970s, when he moved with his children to Westmont. It remains in the family’s hands 67 years after he bought it, and is being turned into the Mojo Museum by Waters’ great-granddaughter, Chandra Cooper.
While living on Lake Park Avenue, he had his biggest musical successes, including three singles that reached highest on the R&B charts: “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy” and “Just Make Love to Me.”
Waters influenced many blues musicians, as well as rock and rollers, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Z.Z. Top among them.
The basement of the Lake Park Avenue building was rehearsal space, according to historical write-ups.
Landmarking the house amounts to the city officially honoring “who this man was and what he did while he was living in that house,” Cooper has said . Having official recognition from the city will also help her fundraising for the museum. Cooper did not respond to requests for comment today.
The two-flat, built in the mid-1880s was owned by the musician’s estate after he died in 1983. Cooper has owned the house since 2000, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
In the past two years, both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmarks Illinois have made grants toward restoration and preservation of the house. Cooper told Crain’s in May that replacement of the old leaky roof was complete and work would begin on the interior rehab.
The effort to get the house landmarked kicked off in May.
The declaration comes during a year when Black historical figures in Chicago have received heightened attention. Among other developments: In January the council landmarked the West Woodlawn home of Emmett Till, a Black Chicago teenager who in 1955 was killed by white racists in Mississippi. In July, a memorial to anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, sculpted by Richard Hunt, was dedicated on a site where CHA housing named for her used to stand. And in August, a petition drive launched calling for renaming the historic Clarke House, built in 1836, for Bishop Louis Henry Ford, the noted Black pastor who saved the house from demolition in the 1940s.
Today’s resolution to landmark the Waters home received no objection when introduced by Ald.Tom Tunney, 44th, as part of a trio of landmark nominations. Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared it passed unanimously.
There was no time to break out the champagne and reefer in celebration, nor to play the Muddy Waters song by that name, as the council was in the middle of a long meeting where, among other things, Lightfoot pitched a $4.4 billion borrowing plan.