WBEZ | streets http://www.wbez.org/tags/streets Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Shadow city: How Chicago became the country's alley capital http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shadow-city-how-chicago-became-countrys-alley-capital-113279 <p><p>When&rsquo;s the last time you paid attention to alleys?</p><p dir="ltr">Chances are, unless you&rsquo;re taking out garbage or trying to squeeze a U-Haul back there, you rarely think about the narrow lane that can cut through a block.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s at least one reason to take note: Chicago is the alley capital of the country, with more than 1,900 miles of them within its borders. (If you left Chicago by plane and flew southwest for that distance, you&rsquo;d end up just shy of Mexico City.)</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago architect Dan Weese would never take <em>his</em> alley for granted. To him, the alley is a many-splendored thing. Dan grew up in Lincoln Park, a North Side neighborhood with plenty of alleys, and he spent a lot of time playing in the alley behind his family&rsquo;s rowhouse. As he puts it, the alley was the &ldquo;rec room of the block.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I remember on Saturday mornings, all the garage doors would open up, and people would be working on cars, or working on a woodworking project, or taking the garbage out, and you could have a relationship with them,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was very different than the people you would meet on your street.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">For Dan, alleys aren&rsquo;t just utilitarian service lanes. They&rsquo;re an important social gathering place &mdash; an informal parallel to the street out front. He&rsquo;s been thinking about them so much, that he sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How was it decided that Chicago should have alleys?</em></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-81fba680-53c1-436f-eefe-33254711a1b9">Well, the answer to Dan&rsquo;s question got us more than we bargained for. It involves a story that spans centuries, and that same story not only explains Chicago&rsquo;s enormous network of alleys but also why some parts of the region are conspicuously alley-free.<a name="map"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/alleys/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MAPEMBED1.png" style="height: 497px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Hip to be square</span></p><p>What gives? Why all the alleys &mdash; and why the divide between Chicago communities with and without them?</p><p dir="ltr">According to Michael Martin, alley expert and professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State University, the &ldquo;why alleys&rdquo; question is easy to answer. You just have to go back to the late 1700s, decades before Chicago was founded. America was young, and had hardly touched any of its newest territories to the west.</p><p>&ldquo;There&#39;s one thing you can do without having to explore all of it,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;Lay a grid over that giant swath of land, and divide it up in ways that you can then take that land and you can sell it, you can deed it over to people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The federal government&rsquo;s National Land Ordinance of 1785 imposed a massive grid over everything west of the Ohio River, dividing uncharted territory into square townships, each 36 square miles in size. Those townships were then sliced into progressively smaller sections, all the way down to the city block.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;As you think about finer and finer scales of design, what&#39;s happening is those squares are being infilled and infilled,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;The big grid was always the framework within which people developed things, and that leads to towns having square blocks, and ultimately the alley inside of that block.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This expanding grid eventually hit the Chicago area.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">According to cartographer and Chicago history buff Dennis McClendon, alleys had become so commonplace in the American West that the Illinois General Assembly &ldquo;simply expected it to happen in Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yjGmPNP.png" style="height: 443px; width: 620px;" title="Thompson's plat map of Chicago in 1830, showing alleys. (Source: Alfred Theodore Andreas, 1884. History of Chicago.)" /></div></div><p dir="ltr">The particulars came into play with the Illinois &amp; Michigan Canal. In the 1820s, the U.S. Congress had granted the state of Illinois enough land to dig a canal to connect Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. The state planned to finance the construction by establishing towns along the canal and selling the land to developers.</p><p>The I&amp;M Canal Commission hired surveyor James Thompson to lay out Chicago at the eastern end of the canal in 1830. To attract prospective land buyers, the General Assembly ordered that the new town of Chicago be &ldquo;subdivided into town lots, streets, and alleys, as in their best judgment will best promote the interest of the said canal fund.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Thompson was apparently a law-abiding man: His town plan for Chicago had 58 blocks, and every single one had an alley.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">The practical side </span></p><p>As it turns out, it&rsquo;s a good thing that Thompson planned Chicago with alleys. The city was a filthy, stinky, disease-ridden place in those days. Rear service lanes were essential for collecting trash, delivering coal, and stowing human waste &mdash; basically, keeping anything unpleasant away from living quarters.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This was one of the reason why alleys have this dark and nasty reputation,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;They were very much the grimy service part of daily life. It wasn&#39;t expected that this would be a well-maintained landscape; it was kind of a landscape of raw utility.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In that same vein, McClendon theorizes that widespread horse ownership in the West translated into a lot of horse dung in the city, which would&rsquo;ve encouraged city planners to include alleys. &ldquo;The horse has the inflow and outflow problems,&rdquo; McClendon says. &ldquo;You have to bring in a lot of hay, you have to muck out a lot of manure. ... That&#39;s one of the reasons that you want to have a service lane that&rsquo;s segregated from where the womenfolk of the town are walking, or other places that you want to be more tidy and well-kept.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Riverside and the beginning of the end of Chicago-area alleys</span></p><p>For its boom years in the 1800s, Chicago was an alley monster; it planned new blocks with alleys, annexed towns with alleys, and added territory to its alley-riddled gridiron. But all grid things must come to an end, and soon communities started popping up <em>without</em> alleys.</p><p dir="ltr">The first of those communities arrived in 1869. That year, Frederick Law Olmsted &mdash; the father of landscape architecture (and who <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/chicago/filmmore/ps_olmsted.html" target="_blank">later played a huge role in Chicago&rsquo;s landscape</a>) &mdash; planned the community of Riverside, which was situated on what was considered to be the far western outskirts of the Chicago region. It was the first planned suburb in America, and the earliest sign of divergence from Chicago&rsquo;s alley trend.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverside3.png" style="width: 620px;" title="Olmsted's Riverside community was intentionally designed without alleys. " /></div></div><p>Constance Guardi, from the Riverside Historical Commission, takes me on a walking tour of the town. As we stroll down winding, tree-lined streets, she points to old, beautiful houses set back behind lush, rolling lawns. Guardi explains that <a href="http://www.snre.umich.edu/ecomgt/pubs/riverside.htm" target="_blank">Olmsted wanted to create the town of the future</a>: a community that combined the peacefulness of the country with the luxury of the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The plan was so that it would meander, rather than that hustle and bustle,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This was to be relaxed. ... So that you would be able to really just have a quiet and lovely life.&rdquo;</p><p>She says Olmsted&rsquo;s master plan for Riverside didn&rsquo;t include alleys, because they just weren&rsquo;t necessary in the wide open spaces of the Illinois countryside. It so happens that Guardi is exactly the kind of person Olmsted had in mind when he planned Riverside. She grew up in a Chicago neighborhood with alleys, and she never cared for them.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&#39;ll tell you why I didn&#39;t like alleys,&rdquo; she says. &quot;They were dirty! ... Everybody&#39;s garbage was out there all the time.&rdquo;</p><p>For years after it was established, Riverside was an outlier. Other suburbs that popped up around it in the years to come &mdash; like Berwyn and Cicero &mdash; followed Chicago&rsquo;s lead with alleys and a grid. Look at a map of the area today, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8274292,-87.8140036,4839m/data=!3m1!1e3" target="_blank">Riverside is a squiggly green island in a sea of squares</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Where the alley ends</span></p><p>By the turn of the century, though, more city planners jumped on Olmsted&rsquo;s bandwagon and began designing communities to be beautiful and clean &mdash; counterpoints to the density and industry they wanted to avoid.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Instead of the old boring grid of the national survey and of the old town,&rdquo; Martin says, &ldquo;we&#39;re now going to do curving streets because they&#39;re modern and they&rsquo;re different.&rdquo;</p><p>As a sign of the times, a 1913 development competition in the suburbs of Chicago yielded almost no designs with alleys; instead, the proposals featured curvilinear streets, and blocks with interior courtyards. (The <a href="http://labs.libhub.org/dallaspl/portal/Being-a-disquisition-upon-the-origins-natural/r0AULVUK/" target="_blank">account is contained in a book</a> authored by alleys scholar Grady Clay.) In one proposal for the contest, <a href="https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/item/show/310167081" target="_blank">Frank Lloyd Wright advocated for the abolition of alleys</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Martin says the death of the alley came about from this shift in urban planning principles, but other factors contributed, too, including improvements in sanitation technology.</p><p>&ldquo;Once you have systems like sanitary sewers or garbage collection that can be done in an efficient way, you don&#39;t really have to have an alley,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So we decided that the street was capable of handling all that stuff.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Then, the automobile came along. In 1920 there were about 8 million car owners in the country; by the end of the decade that number jumped to 23 million. Widespread auto ownership meant there were fewer stables and less horse poop in the city. More importantly, the automobile increased the mobility of working Americans, allowing people to live way out in the sparse suburbs, where the house lots were spacious and streets didn&rsquo;t have to conform to a dense city grid.</p><p>&ldquo;Now it becomes possible to build cities at lower densities, [with] bigger lawns, and bigger landholdings for each house,&rdquo; says McClendon. &ldquo;And that allows you to have a side garage or a side driveway. You no longer have to have the vehicle access through this service lane in the rear.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4suburballeys.png" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="As you move further away from the city, alleys start falling away. " /></div><p dir="ltr">The move away from alleys in the early 20th century &mdash; combined with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">the end of Chicago&rsquo;s growth via annexation</a> &mdash; solidified the divide between alley places and non-alley places in the Chicago region. While new suburban towns and outlying communities forged bravely into an alley-free world, Chicago&rsquo;s historic core and the older suburbs were stuck with their alleys.</p><p>You can see the effects today. Within the Chicago city limits, 90 percent of residential blocks have alleys. But as you move from the city center, alleys begin to fall away. Not immediately, mind you. Suburbs like <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Oak+Park,+IL/@41.883979,-87.7844989,468m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e34ba3f1db787:0xdf588d7dd5d4aea8!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Oak Park</a>, <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Evanston,+IL/@42.0309362,-87.6892455,409m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880fcffd34e80a77:0x6f21a10d05c0671a!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Evanston</a>, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Blue+Island,+IL/@41.6589961,-87.6852451,348m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e235fa95f5f05:0xff39e83b04f67cb4!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Blue Island</a> are chock-full of alleys, but in suburban communities like <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Naperville,+IL/@41.7539285,-88.1657724,1137m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e5761e216cd07:0x87df9c2c7f203052!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Naperville</a> and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Tinley+Park,+IL/@41.5707306,-87.7919136,728m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e158c05a8f865:0xeeefdc310816d898!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Tinley Park</a>, alleys are much harder to find.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Repurposing a relic</span></p><p>The role of Chicago&rsquo;s alleys has obviously changed; even though the city doesn&rsquo;t need alleys for the same reasons it did back in the 1800s, they&rsquo;re still essential parts of the city environment. Today, residents put recycling back there instead of piles of horse dung. And, utilities deliver phone service and electrical power through alleys rather than coal.</p><p dir="ltr">Plus, after centuries of building up around them, alleys are pretty hard to get rid of. A few American cities have instituted &ldquo;alley vacation&rdquo; programs. They&rsquo;re not so fun as they sound: The programs basically involve vacating the alley as a public service lane. For the program to work, however, every alley-abutting homeowner has to agree to extend their property line into the middle of the alley. Not many cities have followed through with the administrative nightmare.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/green%20alley.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A Chicago alley retrofitted with permeable pavers that prevent flooding and allow water to seep into the soil. (Flickr/Center for Neighborhood Technology)" /></div><p>Instead of eliminating them, Chicago is reimagining its alleys. In 2006, Chicago became one of the first cities in the country to conduct a <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/street/svcs/green_alleys.html" target="_blank">&ldquo;green alley&rdquo; program</a>, resurfacing alleys to prevent runoff and decrease solar heat absorption. In the last several years, the Chicago Loop Association has been experimenting with alleys as social spaces, <a href="http://loopchicago.com/ACTIVATE" target="_blank">using them to host pop-up art events</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Martin says Chicago&rsquo;s current approach holds promise for the future, and many contemporary urban planners and architects agree. The <a href="https://www.cnu.org/" target="_blank">New Urbanist school of thought</a> considers them to be both useful infrastructure and an important part of the cultural landscape.</p><p>&ldquo;Now you see people designing and building things where the alley is actually a functioning social space, a gathering space, where the neighbors can actually connect with each other in their own somewhat intimate urban narrow space instead of on the street,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;So you have a two-sided situation in these neighborhoods, and I think that&#39;s a very positive development.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dan%20weese%20%2801%29.jpg" style="float: left; height: 240px; width: 320px;" title="Questioner Dan Weese" /><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner </span></p><p>&ldquo;My curiosity about the alleys came about because it&#39;s part of the landscape and it&#39;s one of these things that you don&#39;t really think about,&rdquo; says Dan Weese. &ldquo;It&#39;s in the background, but it actually forms a really important part [of the city].&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">As for any takeaways from our reporting? He says it&rsquo;s especially interesting that the alley hasn&rsquo;t become entirely irrelevant.</p><p>&ldquo;There was this structure that apparently came about because the folks in the canal commission thought it was a good idea to put in alleys, and then human behavior adapts to that and morphs it,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">Architecture happens to run in Dan&rsquo;s veins. His uncle is none other than renowned architect Harry Weese. (Curious City profiled one of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980" target="_blank">Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</a>) Most of Dan&rsquo;s cousins are architects or designers and his parents founded an award-winning architecture firm &mdash; <a href="http://www.wlwltd.com/" target="_blank">a firm that he now works for</a>.</p><p>When he was a kid, Dan played kick-the-can and raced go-carts in the alley behind his house. He also broke a lot of stuff back there.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You could do more destructive, less socially acceptable things in the alley,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just a little more rough and ready, and you could kind of let your hair down a little bit.&rdquo;</p><p>Now 50 years old, Dan lives with his wife and three children, just three blocks from the rowhouse he grew up in. Unfortunately the couple lives in a highrise, and the alley isn&rsquo;t nearly as good for playing as the one he remembers.</p><p>That is, Dan&rsquo;s all grown up, and he prefers nerding out about alleys and their history, rather than destroying things in them.</p><p><span style="font-size:20px;"><a name="data"></a>Download our data</span></p><p>Want to make your own alley map? <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/maps/downloads/chicago_alleys.zip" target="_blank">Click here to download the data</a>.</p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.38;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><em>Steven Jackson is an independent producer living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/_sbjackson" target="_blank">@_sbjackson</a>.&nbsp; </em></p><h2 class="ProfileHeaderCard-screenname u-inlineBlock u-dir" dir="ltr">&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 10 Oct 2015 16:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shadow-city-how-chicago-became-countrys-alley-capital-113279 The unsung hero of urban planning who made it easy to get around Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 <p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Editor&#39;s note: This was piece was produced in collaboration with the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.architecture.org/" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation,</a>&nbsp;which provided research, expertise and other assistance during its development.</em></p><p>Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben are engaged to be married this fall. But before the two new arrivals to Chicago start a new life in a new home, they want to solve a mystery with roots in the city&rsquo;s early history.</p><p>Toben and Fisch bought a house in the Edgewater neighborhood last year, and they&rsquo;ve been fixing it up since. But they discovered something odd about the address displayed on their siding.</p><p>&ldquo;It was underneath the vinyl siding that was here before and it shows our current house number, which is very visible,&rdquo; says Toben, pointing to metal numbers nailed into the wood slat. It spells out 1761. &ldquo;But then two boards below, there&#39;s a sort of ghosted, painted-over paint.&rdquo;</p><p>That number, barely visible in the 110-year-old wood, reads 615.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know when we went from 615 to 1761,&rdquo; says Fisch. She and Toben asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Where did the old number come from? When and why did they renumber the streets?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Fisch and Toben aren&rsquo;t the only Chicagoans with two house numbers &mdash; in fact, any building in the city built before 1909 probably had a different number than it does now.</p><p>These are the result of a massive shift in how the city handles street names and addresses. Today Chicago is known for having one of the simplest street systems of any big city in the world, with every address emanating out from a central origin point at the intersection of State &amp; Madison Streets. It wasn&rsquo;t always going to be that way, though, and many people fought the change. But Edward Paul Brennan, an unsung hero of urban planning, spent much of his life taming the navigational chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s adolescence, and his legacy lives on more than a century later &mdash; even if few people know his name.</p><p>So answering the &ldquo;when&rdquo; of our questioners&rsquo; inquiry is easy: September 1, 1909. But to answer &ldquo;why,&rdquo; we need to go back to some early Chicago history, when a map of the city looked very different.</p><p><strong>The expanding city</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">Chicago was booming in the late 19th century, gobbling up neighboring towns and annexing them as new neighborhoods of the city</a>. Hundreds of thousands of European immigrants poured into the city, helping triple the city&rsquo;s population between 1880 and 1910. It ballooned in both population and physical size, quadrupling in area in 1889 alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CityLimits/cityLimitsGIF.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20grow%20graphic.jpg" style="height: 356px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago's population grew tremendously throughout the mid-to-late 19th century. There was hardly an effort to standardize street names and addresses until Edward Paul Brennan came up with a plan. (Click to watch animation of how Chicago grew)." /></a></div><p>&ldquo;That was great for those communities because they got the promise of a good infrastructure, but it also created logistical problems obviously for managing a city that size,&rdquo; says Andrew Oleksiuk, secretary of the Illinois Postal History Society.</p><p>Every town that folded into Chicago, from Lake View to Hyde Park, had its own system for naming and numbering streets. Some towns counted out addresses starting from the Chicago River, while others started from Lake Michigan. Some placed even numbers on the north side of the street, others put them on the south. Some even let developers choose their own street names or numbers if there wasn&rsquo;t a lot of local opposition.</p><p>Oleksiuk says the topsy-turvy numbering system contributed to mailmen&rsquo;s struggle to keep up with changing tech, such as the telegraph, streetcars and a new entrant: the telephone.</p><p>&ldquo;The post office really did see itself as being challenged by these new technologies,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So doing something like straightening out the numbering system and making it more efficient for mail delivery made them able to compete better in this world of new technologies.&rdquo;</p><p>As city limits swallowed up existing towns, no one bothered to standardize street names and addresses. Not surprisingly, this system frustrated Colonel LeRoy D. Steward, superintendent of city delivery for the Chicago post office, who spoke at an Industrial Club meeting in April 1908.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Chicago is suffering from improper mail delivery because of improper street arrangement. ... At present there are 125 towns within the city limits, and all have local street names and numbers. At present there are 511 streets of practically duplicate names. No one knows how many duplicate street numbers there are.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>In a later speech Steward asked: &ldquo;What is the use of spending large sums in beautifying the city when one cannot find one&rsquo;s way about it?&rdquo;</p><p>Such critiques emerged alongside the so-called <a href="http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/citybeautiful/city.html" target="_blank">City Beautiful movement</a>, whose proponents believed societal ills would evaporate with the development of rationally designed cities. Private groups like the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/290.html" target="_blank">City Club</a> and the <a href="http://www.commercialclubchicago.org/" target="_blank">Commercial Club</a> banded together to improve the city, promoting ideas like <a href="http://burnhamplan100.lib.uchicago.edu/history_future/plan_of_chicago/" target="_blank">Daniel Burnham&rsquo;s famous Plan of Chicago</a>, which was published in 1909 &mdash; the same year Brennan&rsquo;s system for rationalizing city addresses first took effect. Celebrated architects and engineers built the Loop, standardized the city&rsquo;s cable car system and carved out green spaces that we still use today. But the elegance of our street system is taken for granted.</p><p><strong>New solutions from a man with a plan</strong></p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t a postal worker or even an urban planner that smoothed out the system. It was a man named Edward Paul Brennan.</p><p>Brennan was a delivery boy for his father&rsquo;s grocery store, and later a bill collector for the music company Lyon &amp; Healy. He was so frustrated with the chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s address system that in 1901 he came up with his own. But it would take him years to get it implemented.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brennan 1910 courtesy Adelaide Brennan.jpg" style="height: 385px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Edward Paul Brennan in 1910, who devoted his life to crafting a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature. (Photo courtesy Adelaide Brennan)" /></div><p>Brennan wasn&rsquo;t the first person to recognize the problem, but he was the most persistent at arguing for a solution. As early as 1879, the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> reported on an ordinance for renumbering South Side streets based on Philadelphia&rsquo;s plan, where addresses increased by 100 with every block. It didn&rsquo;t pass.</p><p>&ldquo;His daughter told me that when he was delivering groceries for his father. Before he was even a bill collector, he was running into this problem,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon, an author and journalist who has researched the history of Chicago&rsquo;s street grid. &ldquo;So this was not something that Brennan uncovered &mdash; it was what everybody lived with. It was like snow in the winter &mdash; it was just part of the nature of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>But Brennan wouldn&rsquo;t accept the status quo. Beginning in the 1890s he started a scrapbook, collecting newspaper articles about problems with city navigation or delays due to address confusion. Articles had headlines like &ldquo;Streets in a Tangle. Visitors Lost.&rdquo; One report tells about a doctor who couldn&rsquo;t find a patient during a house call emergency. Brennan lobbied business leaders and newspaper editors for decades, needling them with letters that began like this one:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Dear Sir, Do you think a city should have two streets with the same name? Do you think a city should have one street with two or three, or even ten names? You agree that such naming of streets is ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of any city. Yet Chicago, your city, has hundreds of such streets. This confusion costs you and the other citizens of Chicago hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. &hellip;&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Like many Progressive Era activists, Brennan was motivated by the spirit of the time, devoting his life to crafting &ldquo;a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So let us go forward with the spirit that built the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/your-ticket-white-city-108994" target="_blank">World&rsquo;s Fair</a>, correct our error and present the people of Chicago with a perfect house numbering plan,&rdquo; he said in one of many letters lobbying Chicago aldermen and local business leaders.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Thompson_Chicago_plat_1830.jpg" style="height: 491px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="James Thompson's plat map of Chicago, 1830. (Wikimedia Commons)" />Brennan&rsquo;s plan benefitted from the grid system laid out by James Thompson&rsquo;s official plat map for the city in 1830. Because of the regular spacing of Chicago&rsquo;s city blocks, the continuation of the grid despite any geographic features, and the absence of curved roads, Brennan&rsquo;s 1901 plan could be highly logical and mathematical. &ldquo;In this way,&rdquo; Brennan wrote, &ldquo;the numbers will indicate the locality at a glance.&rdquo;</p><p>With the help of an independent alderman named Charlie Byrne (who happened to be Brennan&rsquo;s cousin) he presented his &ldquo;Street Nomenclature Plan&rdquo; to the City Council in 1901. It included four big ideas: All addresses would be centered around a 0,0 point at State and Madison Streets; street names would include the direction; even-numbered addresses would always be on the west and north sides of any street, with odd numbers on the east and south sides; house numbers would increase by 800 (or 8 blocks) every mile, although Brennan had originally proposed 1000 addresses per mile.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s plan would also involve renaming many streets in order to cut confusion caused by duplication and other problems.</p><p>After his initial proposal, Brennan argued that Kinzie and State should instead be the new 0,0 baseline street, in honor of early settler John Kinzie. Alternate plans from other map enthusiasts proposed Western and Madison, because of its proximity to the geographic center of the growing city.</p><p><strong>A new address for every house in town</strong></p><p>After more than seven years of petitioning, the City Council passed Brennan&rsquo;s house numbering plan in 1908 and it went into effect on September 1, 1909. Businesses within the Loop fought the change early on, arguing that &mdash; among other things &mdash; it would cost too much to reprint their stationery. They received an extra two years to adopt the same system as the rest of the city.</p><p>The process of converting the address of nearly every household in Chicago was a daunting task. Newspaper accounts in the days and weeks leading up to the mandatory changes indicate confusion, resignation, and also humor. City directories published maps and thick new guides that residents and businesses could purchase, listing every old address and its new equivalent. Residents sent illustrated postcards with poems or cartoons to friends, notifying them of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had your Aunt Matilda in Kansas who&#39;s sending you a letter, she doesn&#39;t necessarily know about the re-numbering system,&rdquo; says Oleksiuk. &ldquo;You have to write her a letter to tell her, &lsquo;My new address is such and such.&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh you moved?&rsquo; &lsquo;No I didn&#39;t. They&#39;re just re-numbering the streets.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Trouble lived beyond the initial confusion, though, as some people actively fought the change.</p><p>&ldquo;There were people who saw what [Brennan] was doing and what the city was doing in changing street names as meddling with the historic nature of their streets,&rdquo; says Reardon. &ldquo;So it was not a simple or an uncontroversial thing.&rdquo;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/1.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old_residence_1_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/5.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mailman_newspaperclip_6_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/3.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/town_5_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/2.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/newhomenumber_3_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/4.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sameoldhammock_4_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/6.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mayor_newspaperclip_7_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></td></tr></tbody></table><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Postcards and newspaper clippings show the humor and confusion the city felt after the house number changes. Click on an image for large view.</span></span></p><p>Some residents banded together, lobbied their aldermen, and fought the city&rsquo;s proposed street name changes.</p><p>Under Brennan&rsquo;s plan, the tiny streets of Arlington Place and Deming Place in Lincoln Park should have been renamed as Montana Street and Lill Avenue, because they aligned east to west with those longer streets, despite not having a continuous block of streets.</p><p>&ldquo;Deming Place and Arlington Place residents joined Bellevue Place residents yesterday in expressing indignation at the cold-bloodedness of the council committee on street nomenclature which has threatened to rob them all of their euphonious titles.&rdquo; &mdash; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em>, Dec. 19, 1908</p><p>Others in the city were upset that they were losing a familiar house number. Mrs. Charles E. Pope, a resident along Chicago&rsquo;s Lake Shore Drive, wrote to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> in early 1909:</p><p>&ldquo;Really, I don&rsquo;t see how we shall be able to bear the burden of four numbers after being used to only two. Besides, most of us have lived here many years, and we don&rsquo;t like to see things changed.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.chsmedia.org/househistory/1909snc/start.PDF" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map%20showing%20house%20number%20cutout.PNG" style="height: 153px; width: 220px; float: right;" title="Click for full document of Chicago's 1909 street name and number changes." /></a>But even after the city-wide address renumbering, Brennan&rsquo;s work wasn&rsquo;t done. For the next 30 years he rooted out duplicate street names and inconsistencies, lobbying incessantly as part of the City Club&rsquo;s two-man Street Nomenclature Committee.</p><p>Brennan didn&rsquo;t get everything he wanted. He publicly lamented when aldermen wouldn&rsquo;t take his suggestions for new street names, all of which he said should reference &ldquo;meaningful&rdquo; things like art, literature, history, poetry, and &ldquo;illustrious names from many foreign lands.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It is for us of the present day to continue the work so well begun by the pioneers of Chicago instead of being looked upon as iconoclasts by future generations,&rdquo; he said in 1913. &quot;With a history rich in meaningful names there will be no need of our innocent thoroughfares being rechristened Hinton, Dunmore, Dennison, Empire, or Limerick.&quot;</p><p>As always for Brennan, it was a matter of historic importance.</p><p>&quot;We are about to do something which will last as long as Chicago does,&rdquo; he wrote.</p><p><strong>Brennan&rsquo;s legacy</strong></p><p>After the initial disruption caused by the changes, Chicagoans eventually appreciated the relative simplicity of the city&#39;s new street names and addresses. But Brennan&rsquo;s name was largely forgotten in the years after his death in 1942. His daughters wrote to newspaper editors and the city&rsquo;s map department attempting to have their father&rsquo;s work recognized.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Five years later, City Council named a South Side street in his honor: South Brennan Avenue runs from 96th Street south to 98th Street in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood. At the time the city publicly acknowledged the elegance of Brennan&rsquo;s system, noting &ldquo;There are now fewer street names in Chicago than in any other city in the country of even one-half the area of Chicago.&quot; Chicago had 3,629 miles of streets with just 1,370 names &mdash; far fewer than other cities with smaller geographical footprints at the time: New York (5,003), Baltimore (3,929), or Cleveland (2,199).</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/honorary%20brennan.jpg" title="Today, Brennan's got an honorary street named after him at the intersection of State and Madison Streets, the city's 0,0 point. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Every time Chicagoans navigate the 227 square miles of their city, they&rsquo;re unwittingly perpetuating Brennan&rsquo;s legacy. But until recently one of the only explicit reminders of the man himself was a collection of weathered scrapbooks he carefully collected, which was placed in the care of the Chicago History Museum by Mary Brennan, one of his daughters.</p><p>Another daughter, Adelaide, lived to the age of 99 and was able <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-25/opinion/ct-perspec-0825-madison-20130825_1_south-branch-north-branch-chicago-river" target="_blank">to see Ald. Brendan Reilly dedicate the northwest corner of State and Madison as Edward Brennan Way</a> in 2013.</p><p>Still, few people recognize the name of the man instrumental in rationalizing Chicago&rsquo;s streets. Compare that to the fate of Daniel Burnham.</p><p>&ldquo;Edward Paul Brennan was the man who, in my mind, is comparable to Daniel Burnham,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon. &ldquo;Burnham had the Plan of Chicago, which was set up to change the landscape, the physical landscape of the city. Edward Brennan changed the mental landscape of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>And that mental landscape persists today. Since Brennan&rsquo;s system is universal across the city, with 800 numbers to a mile, Chicagoans still use that same mental landscape to get around their city.</p><p>Raphael Nash was born in the West Side&rsquo;s Austin neighborhood, but has lived all over the city. He had to learn Brennan&rsquo;s system, even if he didn&rsquo;t know it was Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>And even though most people today use a GPS to get around, Nash says it&rsquo;s useful to have a mental map as precise as Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I&#39;m driving and I don&#39;t need to be fumbling with the phone or anything so I just look up and pay attention to the number,&rdquo; Nash says.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s system is so simple that Nash and several other Chicagoans interviewed for this story say it has ruined them for other cities.</p><p>&ldquo;When I spent time on the East Coast I learned cities like Boston, which is just a mess. I was like OK, we had order,&rdquo; says Nash. &ldquo;And when I came back home was I was like, &lsquo;wow this is really easy.&rsquo; I don&rsquo;t know why I never paid attention to it.&rdquo;</p><p>Now Nash knows who to thank for that.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you, Mr. Brennan,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Who inspired our question?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/toben%20_%20fisch1%20%281%29%202.jpg" style="height: 434px; width: 620px;" title="Paul Toben, left, and Jessica Fisch, right, discovered their old house number while fixing up the place they recently bought in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>We have several questioners to thank for inspiring this look into the city&rsquo;s rational street-numbering system. Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben started us off, but so did Marina Post, a Chicago homeowner.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/post6%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 484px; width: 270px; float: right;" title="Marina Post asked us a similar question about her home in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />Post wondered why her 1890s home in Wicker Park (today 2146 W. Caton St.) was one of several homes in the neighborhood with stained glass windows displaying lower, outdated address numbers. Post&rsquo;s is 51.</p><p>&ldquo;I can imagine it would feel somewhat demeaning to go from 51, which feels kind of exclusive,&rdquo; Post says, &ldquo;to 2146, which just makes you feel like you&#39;re one of the masses somehow. I could imagine if I were living at that time I would feel attached to my number.&rdquo;</p><p>She may as well have been talking about Mrs. Charles E. Pope, who complained about &ldquo;the burden of four numbers&rdquo; to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> during the address change. In fact we might owe our questioners&rsquo; curiosity to those stubborn homeowners from the early 20th century who kept their old house numbers beside the new, standardized addresses under Brennan&rsquo;s plan. Without them we wouldn&rsquo;t have the physical evidence of the pre-1909 system &mdash; or lack thereof &mdash; that piqued the interest of people like Paul Toben, Jessica Fisch and Marina Post.</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> who reports regularly for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 New rules of the road possible for Chicago pedicab drivers http://www.wbez.org/news/new-rules-road-possible-chicago-pedicab-drivers-110106 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 8.37.11 AM_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago pedicabs could soon have to follow new rules of the road, much to the dismay of many drivers. The City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a slew of new rules and regulations for bicycle rickshaws popular around Wrigley Field and downtown. It would be the first time the city sets any regulations on the growing industry.</p><p>Many pedicab drivers say they&rsquo;re for some regulation, but argue that the ordinance put forth by Ald. Tom Tunney (44) goes too far. Tunney&rsquo;s measure is years in the making, and requires pedicab drivers to get $250 annual licenses for their cabs, to buy insurance, post fare schedules, apply for &ldquo;chauffeur&#39;s licenses&rdquo; to drive the pedicab and other changes.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s the ban on driving on the downtown portion of Michigan Avenue and State Street, and rush hour restrictions in the Loop that has caused the most protest from drivers. At a joint City Council hearing Tuesday with the committees on License and Consumer Protection and Transportation and Public Way, many drivers testified that the bans would put a big dent in their finances, as downtown is not only where many of their patrons are, but it&rsquo;s where they want to be dropped off.</p><p>&ldquo;What health risk to pedicabs pose? What causes more traffic congestion - a double parked limousine? A 50 foot bus making a turn? Or a pedicab in a bike lane? Pedicabs should be part of the solution and not banned from downtown,&rdquo; Chicago Rickshaw owner Robert Tipton said.</p><p>Nikola Delic, owner of Nick&rsquo;s Pedicabs, is one of many drivers that argued that the ordinance discriminated against pedicab drivers.</p><p>&ldquo;If the horse carriages and cab drivers can pick up their fares in the downtown district, I don&rsquo;t see why the pedicabs wouldn&rsquo;t be able to do the same thing,&rdquo; Delic said. &ldquo;Because horse carriages are blocking the same amount of traffic as one pedicab [and] they&rsquo;re moving slower.&rdquo;</p><p>Drivers submitted a petition Tuesday with over 500 signatures. It requests that aldermen take the entire street restriction section out of the ordinance.</p><p>Tunney has said that he&rsquo;s open to changing portions of the ordinance, but the street ban is off the table.</p><p>&ldquo;The ordinance, I believe, will help legitimize the industry, increase public safety and improve the flow of traffic on our congested streets,&rdquo; Tunney said at the hearing. &ldquo;There are...many good and safe operators but we&rsquo;ve certainly had a few problems that this ordinance is designed to address.&rdquo;</p><p>Commissioner Luann Hamilton from the Chicago Department of Transportation said the department would support reducing the restrictions, and they aren&rsquo;t concerned by pedicabs riding on those streets.</p><p>Another sticking point for drivers is a rule that would cap at 200 the number of registered pedicabs allowed in the city. Drivers contest that this rule will kill off jobs, and that 200 is an arbitrary number, as there&rsquo;s no official measure for the number of pedicabs driving around the city. The ordinance would allow for the number to be changed by the licensing commissioner.</p><p>The ordinance sailed through the joint committee vote, with only two &quot;no&quot; votes from Ald. Ariel Reboyras and Ald. Brendan Reilly. Penalties for violating the act could range anywhere from $100 to $5,000, depending on the violation or number of infractions.</p><p>Other pieces of the ordinance:</p><ul><li>Drivers would have to get a doctor&#39;s note stating they&rsquo;re capable to operate a pedicab and pass a geography exam before receiving their &ldquo;pedicab chauffeur license&rdquo;</li><li>All drivers must be 18 or older</li><li>Pedicab operators must have a valid automobile driver&rsquo;s license - from Illinois or another state</li><li>Pedicabs aren&rsquo;t allowed on sidewalks</li><li>Pedicabs are only allowed to carry four passengers</li></ul><p>Tunney&rsquo;s ordinance does not set fares for pedicabs, regulate where they are able to park or designate certain places they can hang out and wait for fares.</p><p>If the ordinance passes the full City Council Wednesday, the new rules and regulations would take effect by June.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-23d1776b-b381-d33a-af9d-cc36336fa4bd"><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-rules-road-possible-chicago-pedicab-drivers-110106 What ever happened to Pueblo Avenue? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/what-ever-happened-pueblo-avenue-102551 <p><p>Sometimes the best-laid work of city planners goes to waste. Take the case of the street at 8400-west.</p><p>This street was originally called 84<sup>th</sup> Avenue, the name it still carries in the southern suburbs. In the 1920s Chicago annexed the portion of the Dunning community west of Harlem Avenue. Along with it came about one mile&rsquo;s worth of 84<sup>th</sup> Avenue.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-24--Pueblo sign.jpg" title="1972--The heyday of Pueblo Avenue (photo by the author)" /><br /><div class="image-insert-image ">The area was mostly truck farms then. But as land was subdivided, the city extended the Brennan street-name system into Dunning. From 7200-west to 8000-west, the north-south streets got names beginning with the letter &ldquo;O.&rdquo; Next came the streets beginning with the letter &ldquo;P.&rdquo; In this way, the Chicago portion of 84<sup>th</sup> Avenue became Pueblo Avenue.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For some reason, Pueblo Avenue never caught on. Part of the problem was the nearby suburbs. In Maywood, 84<sup>th</sup> Avenue had been renamed First Avenue. River Grove called the street Thatcher Road. Just north of the Chicago section, and into Park Ridge and Niles, it was Cumberland Avenue.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I grew up a few miles to the east. My friends and I always referred to the street as Cumberland. I never knew anyone who actually lived on the street, but I did date a girl whose house was a block away. She called it Cumberland, too.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Belmont-Cumberland.jpg" title="'Does this bus stop at Pueblo Avenue?' (CTA photo)" /></div><p>Even the CTA&mdash;a government agency&mdash;had misgivings about the street&rsquo;s name. The westbound destination signs on the #152 buses read &ldquo;Addison-Pueblo.&rdquo; A half-mile south, the signs on the #77 buses read &ldquo;Belmont-Cumberland.&rdquo; I don&rsquo;t remember what the Irving Park bus signs read. Perhaps they alternated between the two names.</p><p>In 1973 Chicago began replacing its yellow street signs with the green ones we have today. When the crews got to 8400-west, they took down the yellow &quot;Pueblo&quot; signs. The green signs that went up said &quot;Cumberland.&quot;</p><p>I imagine there had to be some official city action changing Pueblo to Cumberland. If there was, I missed it. And if there&rsquo;s anyone who wants to go back to the Pueblo name, I&rsquo;d like to hear from you. &nbsp;</p><p>Or maybe the city still hasn&#39;t made up its mind what to call the street at 8400-west. At the intersection with Montrose Avenue, there are signs that announce both names.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-24--2012 sign.JPG" title="2012--Still Pueblo after all these years (photo by the author)" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 24 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/what-ever-happened-pueblo-avenue-102551 A guide to Chicago street rules http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-02-07/guide-chicago-street-rules-96020 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-07/Madison St_Schmidt.JPG" alt="" /><p><div class="inset"><p><span style="font-size: 11px;">Listen to John Schmidt talk about street names on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></span></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332727549-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/John Schmidt - commercial jingles street names.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div><p>Every so often, you'll hear a visitor to our city ask for directions to Madison Avenue. This will make a true Chicagoan's blood boil. The dumb tourist doesn't even know it's supposed to be Madison <em>Street</em>.</p><p>Actually, there is no special rule on what is called a <em>Street</em>, and what is called an <em>Avenue</em>. It's merely traditional usage.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/02-08--Madison Street_0.JPG" style="width: 495px; height: 330px;" title="In Chicago, our Madison is a 'Street.' (WBEZ/John Schmidt)"></p><p>But the other suffixes! Here we get into some technicalities. At one time there was a whole protocol on how a suffix would be used on Chicago thoroughfares.</p><p>Let's take <em>Boulevard</em>. That title was reserved for streets under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Park District--<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-30/what-color-your-street-sign-95414">brown street signs, remember?</a> Garfield, Logan and Jackson were examples.</p><p>Sometimes the Park District controlled a limited section of a longer street. There, Oakley Avenue changed to Oakley Boulevard, Loomis Street became Loomis Boulevard and so on. The most interesting case was Avenue L--part of it was called Avenue L Boulevard.</p><p><em>Parkway</em> and <em>Drive</em> were other Park District suffixes. Examples here include Diversey Parkway, State Parkway, Lake Shore Drive and the various roadways running through the large parks.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/02-08--Boulevard Food and Liquors.jpg" style="width: 495px; height: 324px;" title="Irving Park Boulevard is a 75-year-old anomaly. (WBEZ/John Schmidt)"></p><p>Irving Park Boulevard was not a Park District street. Following protocol, the city renamed it Irving Park Road in 1937. And yet, thirty years later, old timers like my grandmother were still referring to Irving Park as "the Boulevard." In 2012, Boulevard Food &amp; Liquors continues to operate at Irving Park and Mason.</p><p>Indianapolis Boulevard and Forest Preserve Drive are two city streets. Both are supposed to be called <em>Avenue</em>. But among locals, the older usage persists.</p><p>So much for the Park District. Most Chicago streets were controlled by the City of Chicago--yellow street signs. And the city had a few rules of its own.</p><p>The word <em>Road</em> denoted a major commercial street. This suffix became fashionable during the 1920s. Roosevelt, Cermak, Pulaski, and Pershing date from this era.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/02-08--Indian Road.jpg" style="width: 495px; height: 324px;" title="Indian Road--hardly a major commercial thoroughfare. (WBEZ/John Schmidt)"></p><p><em>Place</em> and <em>Court</em> were side streets. The <em>Place</em> suffix was used mostly for the South Side half-streets--35th Place followed 35th Street, 63rd Place followed 63rd Street, and all the way down to the city limits.</p><p>Chicago also had a few oddball suffixes. These included Northwest <em>Highway</em>, Memory<em> Lane</em>, Palmer <em>Square</em>, and South Park <em>Way</em>. The last two were Park District streets.</p><p>These were the general rules for Chicago street suffixes. Of course, there were exceptions.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/02-08--Ponchartrain Boulevard_0.jpg" style="width: 495px; height: 324px;" title="Ponchartrain Boulevard--not a Park District street. (WBEZ/John Schmidt)"></p><p>Congress Parkway was not a Park District street. Neither were Wacker Drive nor Ponchartrain Boulevard. On the other hand, most of Michigan Avenue and Marquette Road were controlled by the Park District, and displayed the signature brown signs.</p><p>Indian Road was a tiny residential street. And though Fairbanks Court was just a few blocks long, it carried some heavy traffic. So did Foster Place.</p><p>Once the City of Chicago took over the Park District, street suffixes were up for grabs. The section of La Salle Street north of the river was changed to La Salle Drive for a few years. Then it became La Salle Boulevard. I'm not sure what they call it now.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/02-08--Waveland.JPG" style="width: 495px; height: 329px;" title="Waveland Street?! Harry Caray is turning over in his grave! (WBEZ/John Schmidt)"></p><p>There's evidence that the people-in-charge don't take suffixes seriously any more. Cub fans know that when a ball is hit over the left field stands, it lands on Waveland Avenue. But a few miles to the west, at least one sign reads Waveland <em>Street</em>.</p><p>Maybe I should give up trying to make sense of this. Or maybe I should just accept the example of Broadway. In case you haven't noticed, that street has no suffix.</p></p> Tue, 07 Feb 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-02-07/guide-chicago-street-rules-96020 The history behind Chicago's president streets http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-09-23/history-behind-chicagos-president-streets-91997 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-23/Obama Drive_Schmidt.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Last year 127th Street in Calumet Park was renamed Obama Drive. As anyone familiar with downtown Chicago knows, "president streets" are an old city tradition.</p><p>Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore. Those are the first 13 presidents, and 12 of them have streets in or near the Loop. Since there were two presidents named Adams, Quincy Street honors president #6, John Quincy Adams.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-14/09-23--Obama Drive.JPG" style="width: 495px; height: 371px;" title=""></p><p>The one president without a street is #10, John Tyler. Some sources claim Tyler Street was changed to Congress Street during the Civil War, when Tyler declared allegiance to the Confederacy. Yet Tyler Street is still mentioned in news stories into the 1890s. Maybe the city didn't get around to changing the signs until then.</p><p>After Fillmore left office in 1853, the city seems to have abandoned the custom of automatically giving a president his own street. Now he had to earn the honor.</p><p>Lincoln Avenue, Grant Place, Garfield Boulevard, Roosevelt Road. From 1853 to 1909, out of eleven men who served as president, only four made the cut.</p><p>Wait--what about Pierce or Hayes or Arthur or Cleveland? Chicago does have those streets, but all of them were named for other people. So was Harding Avenue.</p><p>When Woodrow Wilson died in 1924, the city council decided he deserved a street. Chicago already had a Wilson Avenue, so the council changed Western Avenue to Woodrow Wilson Road. That lasted about a month, until pressure from business owners brought back the old name.</p><p>Since the Woodrow Wilson mess, the city has tried to avoid the hassle of renaming streets to honor presidents. Eisenhower and Kennedy got expressways--no address changes to worry about there! Taft got a minor street near O'Hare with no buildings on it.</p><p>But Barack Obama is a special case. As a citizen of Chicago, he will eventually be honored with a city street. And it will probably not be as remote as 127th Street.</p><p>I already have my own idea about what street name to change. What are your thoughts?</p></p> Fri, 23 Sep 2011 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-09-23/history-behind-chicagos-president-streets-91997 Will you pray for us? http://www.wbez.org/gscott/2008/07/will-you-pray-for-us/354 <p>It's a simple question. Unless you're a journalist, a documentary maker, a man who doesn't believe in God. But it's the only thing Bill asked me to do. Bill and his wife Linda constitute the hub, the nucleus, of a group of homeless and precariously housed people who live, loiter, drink, smoke, laugh, cry, argue, love, and sometimes die at a bustling intersection underneath Interstate 55 on the South Side of Chicago. My wife Erin and I entered their world recently. We drove by their encampment and noticed them interacting with the police who had "rolled up" on them. Bill's $38,250 in outstanding, unpaid tickets (for loitering, drinking in public, obstructing traffic, etc.) testify to their conspicuousness, their tenacity. Because of my commitment to serving the homeless, the indigent, the marginalized, and doing so ON THEIR TERMS, my wife and I went back to visit them. We wanted to get to know these folks and to help them in any way we could. And, to be honest, I was entertaining notions of possibly telling their story on radio and/or film. My motivations for visiting them were therefore a blend of good will and self-interest. That's how it always works, in my opinion. We journalists and researchers often act from a blended place--our intentions may be good, even noble. But we also want to advance our careers. That's why a group like this one represents many things-one of which is self-promotion. In the best case, impure altruism outweighs the self-advancement in the calculus of motive. <!--break--> "The Underpass" reminds me a lot of <a onclick="urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354');" href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715">The Brickyard, which I am reporting on for <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></a>. I write this because my first encounter with The Underpass folks differs from my first encounter with The Brickyard. However, nearly every one of my initial sojourns into a so-called "underground" group is marked by good will, self-interest, sincerity, and artifice. So I wasn't at The Brickyard, but I approaching The Underpass speaks to how one goes about entering an "outlaw group," a subculture. So we charged headlong into their lives, hoping to do some good, and maybe develop a comparative analysis of The Brickyard and other places where people engineer their own off-the-books solutions to the failure of the American Dream. After brief introductions I opened my "trick bag." The bag's contents? Bottles of drinking water. Clean, sterile needles. Kits for safer crack smoking. Condoms. Antibacterial liniment for cuts and scrapes. The people there were agog at the presents coming out of my bag. They marveled and wondered aloud how this could be legal. We gave them identification cards authorizing their legal possession of the crack kits and syringes (although only one person there took the needles, and only a few took the crack kits, and even fewer had any use for drinking water, but several took condoms, if only for "a friend"). "We're all pretty much just drunks here," Bill reported kindly, his clear blue eyes radiating out from a weather-worn face. We yukked it up for two hours. Great conversation. They shared parts of their life stories. And we shared ours, when asked, but mostly we just listened, assuming a seated position on the ground, in the figure of student. Jason incurred a massive brain injury one year ago in an automobile accident that killed his best friend. He's now illiterate, trying to raise a daughter single-handedly. "My uncle's a drunk, he hangs out here, and he loves these people. They're all good people. So I come down here to check on him just about every other day." Dan's a heroin addict. He's been shooting dope for more than 20 years. He hates being addicted, and he hopes to kick it one day soon. "But it's hard, man, I can't stand the withdrawal. Some people can do it, they can go cold turkey. Not me. I need help. So does my old lady. I can't stop, or stay stopped, when she's still using. I'm too weak." He asked my opinion, so I replied, "Well, I wouldn't say you're weak. It's just that everybody experiences the drug, and the addiction, their own way... different from everybody else. Just because one person kicked cold turkey doesn't mean that everyone else can." Dan considered this, "Hmm, yeah, I guess you're right. I need help. That's not a bad thing, I guess." Stella is a proud mother of six children. And she happens to smoke crack. She and her boyfriend have a camp under the expressway above us. "We've got a nice set-up. We even got us a table for sitting." She spends 15 minutes braiding my wife's hair while we chat it up. Linda (Bill's wife) used to sell lighting to commercial enterprises. She's been institutionalized, voluntarily and against her will, on several occasions. She's very religious, and she tithes and offers every month because "my pastor told me that if I keep giving, even when I've got nothing to give, then when I start slipping back, God will keep the devil off my back." Bill loves Linda. "She's beautiful," he says matter-of-factly, as though he's telling me that we're now standing on a concrete sidewalk.‚  But she never ever shuts up," he says with a laugh, "except when she's drinking." We've handed out the goods. The group seems fairly well convinced that I'm not out there to hassle them. I'm not there to get them to stop doing what they do. Now I ask, "Anything you need us to do here?" "Yeah," Bill says, "will you pray for us?" Silence. An icy vice grips my intestines. I'm shocked...and scared. He can't be serious. In all my years of doing street-level outreach, research, journalism, and documentary work, no one has ever asked me to pray for them. And I haven't even prayed since I was 8-years-old. In fact, I pride myself in part on being profane, on embodying profanity. I try to laugh it off, nervously. But no one else is laughing. So I stop the feigned chuckle and ask, "You really want me to pray for you?" Bill's earnest eyes stir something inside of me, an emotion that makes me want to cry. Everyone starts shuffling toward a huddle formation. "Yes, I do. Please," Bill says softly. "Okay." And here I go. I can't believe I'm doing this. I don't know what to say. Everyone's now moving in swiftly, concertedly, pushing their hands toward the middle. I've coached little league baseball for many years, and it occurs to me that I'm just leading a cheer, really. Guys who were lingering on the margins of the group have now moved, nearly a dozen people have crowded around. Bill looks up at me, supplication is the word that comes to mind. Drawing on some long-since padlocked reserve of divine worship, I begin speaking. I realize that I'm not praying to God for these folks. I'm praying to humanity, to a sort of American collective conscience, and maybe God is listening. I feel enveloped by a secular moralism that, to me, feels holy. "Heavenly father, we pray in your name, gathered here today, we ask for your divine mercy, we ask for your mercy and forgiveness, and we ask that you bless each step we take, the ground we walk upon, the souls that now live inside our bodies. We ask that you grant us the power of forgiveness...so that we may forgive ourselves and those who lack mercy and compassion. Please be with us, always and forever, dear God. In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen." And so it went. Bill looked up at me and said, "That was the best prayer anyone's ever said for me. It's the best I've heard. It's the only prayer that's moved me in my heart." I don't know if Bill was putting me on. And I don't know why he asked me to pray for them. Was he testing me? Did he figure that I was just another "religion and rice" street corner preacher promising food in exchange for the acceptance of Jesus Christ (and an offering) and that I therefore would be most comfortable leading a prayer? Bill doesn't even believe in God. But it's clear that he believes in something. Later, while looking into an abandoned but highly trafficked building near Douglas Park, Erin and I talked at length about whether or not I should have agreed to lead the prayer. There's no clear answer. Not in my mind anyway. I ask you: should I have declined (politely) to pray for them? After all, I don't believe in God. And I am not a spiritual leader. I was there doing outreach and perhaps some journalism. Is it a breach of ethics to occupy, under "false pretenses," a position of spiritual leadership, if only for 90 seconds? I'm pretty sure I know why I agreed to pray, and I could give you a well-reasoned argument justifying it. But what would you have done? Would you have led the prayer?</p> Wed, 23 Jul 2008 16:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/gscott/2008/07/will-you-pray-for-us/354