It began in September 1933, when a local Polish group asked Mayor Edward J. Kelly to name a street in honor of Casimir Pulaski.
The idea was appealing. General Pulaski had been a hero of the American Revolution. Besides that, the Poles were a major ethnic voting bloc. Kelly agreed to the plan--Crawford Avenue was to be renamed Pulaski Road.
As the mayor soon found out, many Chicagoans were against the change.
The street in question had been named for pioneer settler Peter Crawford. His family liked the existing name. So did the Chicago Historical Society. So did the store owners along Crawford, who'd have to revise their advertising--a few businesses, like Madison-Crawford Restaurant, might even have to change their names.
In December 1933 the City Council approved the change to Pulaski. The next month a group of Crawford businessmen got an injunction to halt the action. The Appellate Court overturned the injuction, and the city began putting up the new street signs on March 9, 1934.
But now the Crawford group took their case to the State Legislature. In 1937 a new state law was enacted--if 60% of the property owners on a street signed a petition to change a street name, the street name had to be changed. The Crawfords immediately started gathering signatures to get the old name restored.
The Pulaskis fought back. They started their own petition drive to change Haussen Court to Crawford Avenue. If they could file their petition first, the Pulaski name would have to stay. After all, Chicago couldn't have two streets named Crawford Avenue.
The war dragged on. "Pulaski Road" signs kept disappearing. A streetcar conductor who announced "Crawford Avenue" was slugged by a Polish passenger. World War II came and went. Then, in 1951, the Crawfords got the number of signatures they needed.
The matter went to the Superior Court--and the judge ordered the street changed back to Crawford! The Pulaskis appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Finally, in November 1952, that court tossed out the 1937 petition law. Once and for all, Pulaski Road became official.
Official in Chicago, that is. In some suburbs, the street is still called Crawford Avenue.