Emmett Till House takes first step toward landmark status as questions are raised about its future

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The former home of Emmett Till at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave., in Chicago, seen on Nov. 9, 2017. - Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO — The Chicago house of Emmett Till, whose brutal slaying in Mississippi helped spark the civil rights movement, took the first step Thursday toward becoming an official city landmark as questions arose about the owner’s plans for the building.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved a staff recommendation that the red brick two-flat at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave. be granted preliminary landmark status. That begins a multistep process that would protect the building from significant changes or demolition.

The vote came days after the 65th anniversary of Till’s slaying on Aug. 28, 1955. Till, who was 14 at the time of his death, lived with his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in a three-bedroom apartment on the house’s second floor.

Till’s mother chose an open-casket funeral to show mourners, and the world, the horror and violence her son endured.

The property’s owner, Blake McCreight of Express Property Solutions of Chicago, told the commission that he supports landmark status and promised to meet with community members to turn the home into something “way bigger than an income-producing property.”

When McCreight bought the house, he said, he was not aware Till and his mother had lived there. He told commissioners he does not have a plan for the property.

Several commissioners said the property is likely to become a pilgrimage site of African American history. Others raised the possibility that the two-flat could become a house museum. Maurice Cox, the city’s planning commissioner, proposed the city do a survey of significant sites in African American and Latino history so owners know they’re buying a historically important property.

The City Council has final say on landmark status.

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