Preservation Efforts at the Muddy Waters House progress thanks to critical grant funding

November 20, 2020

(This article originally appeared in the November 2020 edition of The Arch newsletter)

Seven years after first calling attention to the former Chicago home of Blues legend Muddy Waters, Landmarks Illinois was excited to see preservation efforts at the house take a major step forward this year.

Muddy Waters Original Jam Out (MOJO) Museum, a nonprofit working to transform the North Kenwood home into a museum and cultural center, received two grants in recent months to support its restoration and redevelopment plans. The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded the MOJO Museum $50,000 through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Shortly after helping the museum apply for and secure that funding, Landmarks Illinois awarded the organization a grant through our new Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side.

The MOJO Museum will use these funds to carry out important structural repairs at the 131-year-old home. The Muddy Waters house, located at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. in Chicago’s North Kenwood Multiple Resource Landmark District, was built in 1889. McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters, purchased the brick two-flat in 1954 and lived in it until the 1973. The basement became a rehearsal space for Waters and other famous musicians, like Chuck Berry, who visited.

(PICTURED: Civil rights activist Timuel D. Black, Jr. (left) and Chandra Cooper, great-granddaughter of Muddy Waters and President of the Muddy Waters Original Jam Out (MOJO) Museum, at the Muddy Waters House in September.)

Over the years the home has suffered from deterioration and in 2013, it faced foreclosure and demolition, leading Landmarks Illinois to include it on its Most Endangered Historic Places list. With the help of Landmarks Illinois and donated services and expertise from architecture and engineering firm Klein & Hoffman and contractor Berglund Construction, a multi-phase preservation plan is now in place. Phase 1 of the project includes repairing the front bay window and exterior masonry and fixing water damaged interior spaces.

Landmarks Illinois is proud to have the MOJO Museum as its first-ever grant recipient of the Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side, a program launched this spring with the help of generous contributions made at Landmarks Illinois’ 2020 Legendary Landmarks Celebration in March where Mr. Black was honored as a Legendary Landmark. The fund provides small planning and capital grants to support organizations and people working to preserve the history, culture and architecture of Chicago’s South Side, where Mr. Black has spent the majority of his life living and promoting African American history.

According to Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald, the restoration of the Muddy Waters House is exactly why Landmarks Illinois created this new grant fund.

“The revitalized Muddy Waters House will become a community asset and a focal point for the Blues music culture Chicago is known for,” McDonald said. “We also believe the MOJO Museum will contribute to preserving the South Side’s incredible history, and in doing so honor Timuel Black’s legacy of civil and human rights activism.”

To learn more about the Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side, or to apply for funding through the program, visit

Read the entire November 2020 edition of The Arch newsletter.

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