About two weeks ago, a big red X appeared on the 120 year old former home of blues legend Muddy Waters, indicating that the building is structurally unsound. The Department of Buildings is currently seeking a court order to get a permit to raze the building, which lies in the North Kenwood landmark district. This location means that demolition would need approval from the landmarks commission.
Although the Department of Buildings is seeking a demolition permit, a spokesperson told Lee Bey of WBEZ that they want compliance and would prefer the owner bring the property up to code.
Mr. Bey gave the following historic context on the house and its significance to the neighborhood:
Waters, born McKinley Morganfield, bought the house in 1954 and lived there until he moved to Westmont in 1973. At his creative peak while living in the Lake Park, Waters built a rehearsal room in the basement and held impromptu jam sessions there with the likes of Chuck Berry and fellow bluesman Howlin’ Wolf.
Waters died in 1983 and by the 1990s, his old home had fallen into disrepair and was threatened with demolition. Preservationists and blues enthusiasts successfully rallied around the building and the Department of Cultural Affairs erected a sign in front of the home honoring the location and Waters in 1999.
As I was taking pictures of the house, several neighborhood residents came up to chat with me. Pictured above is Anthony, one such resident who beamed with pride as he described the famous one time resident, and what the house means to his neighborhood.
About 12 or 13 years ago, artists and community activists cleaned up the property and painted murals on the door and window coverings, as seen above. After that, it enjoyed a brief period of occupancy and upkeep. That has since faded away, and the house is once again in trouble.
- Muddy Waters’ historic South Side home could have date in demolition court (WBEZ)
- Vacant Muddy Waters house found to be ‘dangerous’ in city inspection (Chicago Tribune)