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Muddy Waters home gets final Landmarks Commission approval, moves to City Council

The home in North Kenwood where blues legend Muddy Waters lived — which is being converted into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum — was granted final landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday.

The home in the South Side North Kenwood neighborhood where blues legend Muddy Waters lived is a step closer to becoming an official city of Chicago landmark. The Landmarks Commission on Thursday granted preliminary landmark status to the property at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave., which a great-granddaughter is converting into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum.
The home in the South Side North Kenwood neighborhood where blues legend Muddy Waters lived is a step closer to becoming an official city of Chicago landmark. The Landmarks Commission on Thursday granted preliminary landmark status to the property at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave., which a great-granddaughter is converting into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday granted final approval of landmark status for the South Side home where blues legend Muddy Waters lived and raised his family, the quest for designation now moving to the Chicago City Council for approval.

It was the final hurdle in the journey through the Commission for the property at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. in North Kenwood to be named a city of Chicago landmark.

Next stop is the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards. With committee approval, it then goes before the full council for vote.

The brick two-flat — where Waters lived on the first floor, rented out the top floor and had his recording studio in the basement — is owned by Waters’ great-granddaughter, Chandra Cooper, who is converting the home into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum.

At one time or another, legends like Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry lived there.

“We are so elated and happy that the city of Chicago Landmarks Commission has recognized and is honoring the home of my great-grandfather, where there is musical legacy and history,” Cooper said. “We’re on this great path toward becoming one of Chicago’s landmarks, and we are looking forward to working with the blues community, the city and the alderman on this project to leave a piece of his legacy for the city of Chicago.”

Courtesy of Chicago Department of Planning and Development Courtesy of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

The project is among burgeoning efforts to honor Black history in a post-George Floyd era, and part of a wave of house museums within an emerging tourism sector — including those honoring Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley, Phyllis Wheatley and Lu and Jorja Palmer.

Arriving in Chicago from rural Issaquena County, Mississippi in 1943, the acclaimed “Father of Chicago Blues” moved his family into the home in 1954, purchasing it in 1956.

He played house parties at night for extra money, eventually becoming a regular in local nightclubs. By 1948, Chess Records released his first hits, “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “I Feel Like Going Home,” and his career took off.

By the early ’50s, his blues band, which at one time or another comprised musicians who went on to make their own mark — Otis Spann, Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Rogers, Elgin Evans, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton — had become one of the most acclaimed in history.

Independent record companies like Chess, King, Vee Jay, Chance and Parrot, and distributors like United and Bronzeville were then headquartered around Cottage Grove from 47th to 50th streets, and the home became a gathering place for musicians welcomed at all hours.

Waters lived there until after the death of his wife in 1973. He moved to suburban Westmont, where he lived until his death on April 30, 1983.