Though he didn’t find his life’s mission until he was 50 years old, George Wellington Streeter has achieved a kind of immortality: One of Chicago’s swankiest neighborhoods carries his name, all because he originated a local version of the Occupy Movement.
Streeter was born in Michigan in 1837, one of 13 children. He had little formal education, and scuffled through different jobs — logger, miner, ice-cutter, carnival showman, mariner. In the summer of 1886 he got into a scheme to run guns to Honduras.
While trying out his little steamship in a Lake Michigan storm, Streeter ran up on a sandbar off Superior Street. He couldn’t move, so he decided to stay there.
Everything east of Michigan Avenue was then a swamp. Streeter convinced local builders to dump their debris near his ship.