Muddy Waters House
4339 S. Lake Park Ave.

Muddy Waters House
2003 NB
The chain link fence that wrestles overgrowth from the adjacent lot also encircles one of the great stages of the Chicago blues. On summer nights in the 1950s, Muddy Waters used to gather a star-studded ensemble on his front yard here and fill the streets with the strains of his brand of blues. 

Since then, the house was abandoned, boarded up, and made serial appearances on the city's demolition list. In 1999, neighborhood leaders hired an artist to paint murals of Muddy Waters' life on the boards in the windows, and the house was featured in the book Unexpected Chicagoland as an example of creative recovery of neighborhood pride. When I went to the house on assignment for the Chicago Tribune's Squandered Heritage series, I found the murals gone and the lawn strewn with litter. Still, a historical marker placed by the Tribune--and reported occupancy by a Waters relative--may be enough to stave off demolition. As the authors write in Unexpected Chicagoland, the neighborhood's "unusual approach [of installing the artistic murals] has bought time: until the murals fade and the boards warp and fall, the house will be less vulnerable to arson, squatters, and the elements."  -NB 

-More about the Muddy Waters house from ChicagoTribute.org
-More about Muddy Waters from MuddyWaters.com, Rolling Stone, and PBS' "American Masters."
-See also: Unexpected Chicagoland from The New Press (including mistakenly reversed photo of the murals)


© Copyright 2001-2003
Nathan L.K. Bierma