Tracking Chicago's shortest streets

November 21, 2012

If you know your Chicago trivia, you know that Western Avenue is the city’s longest street. From Howard Street to 119th Street, it runs in a straight line for 23.5 miles. But what is Chicago’s shortest street?

The answer used to be Ziegfeld Court. Named for showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. — a Chicago native — this mini-street was actually an alley, 76.4 feet long and ten feet wide. Ziegfeld Court was located next to the Ziegfeld Theater, on the north side of Van Buren, just east of Wabash.

In 1970 the city sold Ziegfeld Court to Continental Assurance for $151,300. At $198 per square foot, it was reported to be the highest price ever received by the city for a public thoroughfare. The CNA Center now occupies the site.

Some people didn’t seem to get the news. For many years afterward, various sources still claimed that Ziegfeld Court was Chicago’s shortest street. In 2008, Forgotten Chicago attempted to correct that misinformation.

“Tiny Streets” is an interesting, very detailed article by Serhii Chrucky. Sixteen streets, each of them less than a quarter of a block long, are examined. The length of the different streets is determined by their address points —what a layperson might call house numbers.

Using that criterion, Chicago’s shortest street is McDermott Street, a tiny stub off Archer Avenue in the Bridgeport neighborhood. The street is officially listed at 1400 west, from 2928 to 2936 south. That’s eight address points.

About a half-mile to the northeast is Hoey Street. This little lane is located at 964 west, from 2702 to 2712 south. Using the same rule, this is considered Chicago’s second-shortest street, with ten address points.

A few weeks ago I was driving down Archer Avenue and decided to visit these two little streets. The city’s address-point system can be inconsistent, so I paced off both McDermott and Hoey.

Using my size-12 shoes, McDermott Street was 112 feet long. Though Hoey Street is a little wider, and at first glace appears a little longer, it measured only 91 feet in length.

I checked each street three times. My method is certainly not exact science, but it does seem that Hoey Street is shorter than McDermott Street.

To settle the matter once and for all, we probably need someone with professional surveying equipment to measure McDermott, Hoey and the other tiny Chicago streets. But you’d better get going before the first snow comes.