CHICAGO — The site where house music was first shared with the world has officially been designated a Chicago landmark.
With the support of house music fans, Preservation Chicago, the city of Chicago, and Mayor Brandon Johnson, the building that once was the location of The Warehouse received landmark status by the Chicago City Council.
“The Warehouse opened in 1977 with DJ Frankie Knuckles and a state-of-the art sound system per the vision of owner Robert Williams to convert an old industrial building into a vibrant nightclub creating dancefloor freedom for Chicago’s Black gay community,” Preservation Chicago stated.
Located at 206 South Jefferson Street in Chicago’s West Loop, “The Warehouse” is considered sacred ground for house music as it “influenced and shaped the rich culture that was pioneered and purveyed.”
Preservation Chicago created a petition in March 2023 to help draw attention to the importance of saving and maintaining a piece of house music and Chicago history. As of June 21, the petition has over 14,000 signatures.
“Chicago’s landmarks illustrate the story of our history and culture. I’m proud that the City Council approved landmark designation for The Warehouse, a space regarded as the birthplace of house music and a safe haven for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ communities,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said. “Everyone who celebrated at The Warehouse — no matter how they identified or where they were from — felt like they belonged. And that is truly indicative of our city, a place where all are welcome, and all should feel like they belong.”
In 1982, The Warehouse was deemed unsafe by the city and Williams was forced to close the nightclub. The building was sold in December 2022 and plans for the building’s future still remain unknown a year later.
“The Warehouse is an important part of the LGBTQ+ community’s story in Chicago and I’m grateful that we are able to give this building the historical designation it deserves,” said Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. “For decades, The Warehouse represented a safe and inclusive space for our Chicago’s Black, Latinx, and queer communities to celebrate. I’m proud to honor their legacy during this Pride Month.”
After the Chicago City Council approved The Warehouse landmark status, Preservation Chicago issued the following statement:
“This is a momentous occasion that commemorates the rich culture and community of house music both in Chicago and across the world. Thanks to this designation, the legacy of Frankie Knuckles is forever enshrined in our city’s history. This is a moment that music lovers all over the world can celebrate.
THANK YOU to everyone who helped make it happen, everyone who signed and shared the petition, everyone who wrote articles and helped spread the word, everyone who submitted comments to the Commission, and everyone who spoke.”
The queen of house music and Chicago-native Darlene Jackson, known as DJ Lady D, also celebrated the Chicago City Council’s decision as a victory for many:
“Today’s win for Landmark status of the Warehouse Nightclub location on Jefferson really is a statement about shifting power dynamics.
We often associate landmark status with historical buildings that have been continually uplifted in Chicago’s history. Today’s decision really solidified community activism at it’s best working in real time. There was an outcry of people on a local level saying this is important to us and then taking the measures to work within the system to achieve the desired results.
All the petitioners, all the people who called and wrote letters, all the people who canvassed across social media, all of the people who showed up at the hearings– this is a win for everyone that cares about Chicago and the legacy of House music right here in its birthplace.
For the love of House, Frankie Knuckles, and Chicago, this is a win that really matters.”
Anyone interested in continuing the conversation about how to preserve house music history in Chicago, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will be hosting a Chicago House Music Conference on Friday, June 23.
The panel will held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center.
For more information of the conference, click here.