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Inside the Muddy Waters House
The foundation of one of the most historically significant homes in American popular culture is in bad shape.
But every dream floats from the bottom up.
On Monday the Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) toured the Muddy Waters home, 4339 S. Lake Park. The blues giant lived in this North Kenwood home between 1954 and 1974, the embryonic years of modern blues and rock n’ roll.
Magic was made in a homemade basement studio.
And the basement is in the worst shape.
It has been stripped down to a dirt and wood floor.
The house is on the Landmark Illinois 2013 “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” list. City of Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson calls it the most historically significant house in Chicago.
Muddy jammed with his piano player Otis Spann and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith in the basement. Chuck Berry visited the house and Mike Bloomfield held court with Muddy in the living room.
The house was built as a two-flat in 1889. The city has appointed NHS as a receiver. “Given the period of vacancy, the interior is in a lot better condition than I expected,” said Bryan Esenberg. NHS head of receivership. “The place is filled with personal debris and bottles. Floors one and two were rehabbed in the last six to 10 years as apartment but suffer from vandalism and neglect.”
NHS provided these pictures to the Sun-Times.
“It’s a very feasible project,” said Ensberg, who toured the property. “There’s been vandals going in there as recent as the fall of 2012. I saw a newspaper (with that date.) People partying, hanging out. There’s feces inside. But it’s in a lot better condition than a lot of stuff I look at. Based on the kitchens and the tile I think it was rehabbed around 2006.”
The home’s exterior masonry is the biggest problem to health and safety with large cracks in the bricks on the Northeast and Southeast corners of the building. “There is evidence of falling bricks,” Esenberg said. “Most elevations need exensive tuckpointing and/or brick replacement.” Esenberg said masonry would only cost around $50,000, with interior repairs ranging between $30,000 and $40,000 if the house is returned to two apartments.
Waters’ relative Chandra Cooper is sole owner of the house. On Friday, her attorney Erik Miles issued a statement that said, “Ms. Cooper’s intent is to preserve this historic landmark, which the entire community enjoys. We look forward to a successful resolution of the matters pending.”
Miles said Cooper would have no further comment. The house is foreclosed. Waters’ great grandson Steven Mckinley Monson is raising funds to repair the house through a Kickstarter campaign.
The matter will appear in vacant building court on June 20 when NHS will present bids for the repairs.