NORTH KENWOOD — Dubbed by one local historian as "Chicago's real house of blues," Muddy Waters' former home in North Kenwood is one of the state's most endangered historic places, a preservation group says.
The late 19th Century, red brick house, at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave., has been vacant for about ten years, according to Landmark Illinois. It is currently in foreclosure proceedings but the blues man lived in the home between 1954 and the early 1970s.
Waters moved to suburban Westmont in 1973 and his family retained ownership of the home. After Waters died in 1983, the house fell into disrepair.
Architecture blogger Lee Bey says the home is owned by a great granddaughter of Waters.
In releasing its annual list of endangered places on Tuesday, Landmark Illinois described how Waters "built a rehearsal room in the basement where he hosted many noteworthy blues musicians."
Bey writes of impromptu jam sessions held there with Chuck Berry and Howlin' Wolf and notes that Waters lived in the house when he recorded the blues standard Mannish Boy in 1955. Bey writes that Waters was "at his creative peak" when the musician lived at the Lake Park home.
The property was recently cited by the City Building Department for multiple violations — putting it at risk for a court-ordered demolition, Landmarks Illinois said.
Neighbors, artists and Muddy Waters fans keep the house boarded up and would like it established as a museum to the blues artist.
"The city is working with the current owner to address the violations, but the house remains in Building Court. We hope to work with the owner and other interested parties to develop a plan that will honor the rich legacy of Muddy Waters, as well as enhance community pride around this landmark," the group said.
The group quoted Tim Samuelson, cultural historian with the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, who called the house “Chicago's real ‘House of Blues.’ "
"It's always a favorite of visiting blues fans,” Samuelson said.
Also on the Landmarks Illinois endangered list: Chicago's moveable bascule bridges, some of which are deteriorating.