WBEZ | Chicago streets http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-streets Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en When Western Avenue was Woodrow Wilson Road http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/when-western-avenue-was-woodrow-wilson-road-106749 <p><p>As any true Chicagoan knows, Western Avenue is the longest street in the city.&nbsp;Would you believe it was once named Woodrow Wilson Road?</p><p>Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, died on February 3, 1924.&nbsp;He&rsquo;d been an icon of the Progressive movement and led the country through the First World War.&nbsp;The Chicago City Council wanted a suitable way to honor him.</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/WoodrowWilsonVersailles.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 365px; float: right;" title="President Woodrow Wilson (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>A few years before, after Theodore Roosevelt died, the aldermen changed 12th Street to Roosevelt Road.&nbsp;What was good for a dead Republican president should be good for a dead Democratic one. Since the city already had a Wilson Avenue, it was decided to use President Wilson&rsquo;s full name on his street.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not clear why the lawmakers chose Western Avenue for renaming.&nbsp;On April 25, 1924 they voted to re-designated the street as Woodrow Wilson Road.</p><p>The 12th-to-Roosevelt change had caused little controversy.&nbsp;But now the property owners along Western objected to the expense involved in renaming their street. Within a few weeks they&rsquo;d gathered over 10,000 signatures asking that the old name be restored.</p><p>The&nbsp;<em>Tribune</em> sent its inquiring reporter to the corner of &ldquo;Washington Boulevard and Woodrow Wilson Road&rdquo; to gauge public opinion.&nbsp;Most people said the change didn&rsquo;t make any difference to them.&nbsp;One young lady&nbsp;did say&nbsp;she favored the new name because &ldquo;it sounds lots nicer, [and] we see enough old things around here.&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/04-25--Woodrow%20Wilson%20Street%20%28Detroit%29.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 167px; float: left;" title="Woodrow Wilson Street, Detroit" /></div><p>The property owners prevailed.&nbsp;Less than a month after its original action, the council ordered the&nbsp;street changed back to Western Avenue.&nbsp;A&nbsp;proposal to rename Navy Pier after Wilson went nowhere.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In 1927 the council changed Robey Street to Damen Avenue, despite resident protests. When Crawford Avenue was renamed Pulaski Road in 1933, that set off a battle that lasted 19 years before Pulaski was legally accepted.&nbsp;More recently, a&nbsp;proposal to change part of Evergreen Avenue to Algren Street was abandoned in the face of local resistance.&nbsp;</p><p>The lesson seems to be that changing a street name will always&nbsp;rub some people the wrong way. That&rsquo;s why the city came up with the idea of honorary streets.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Note: The successful move to change Woodrow Wilson Road back to Western Avenue was spearheaded by Alderman Joseph Kostner.&nbsp;Today the city remembers him with an official street named Kostner Avenue.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/when-western-avenue-was-woodrow-wilson-road-106749 The mystery of Woodward Drive http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/mystery-woodward-drive-106129 <p><p>Anyone interested in Chicago history should&nbsp;get a copy of <em>Streetwise Chicago</em>. This 1988 book by Don Haymer and Tom McNamee lists the origins of thousands of the city&rsquo;s street names. They gathered their information mainly from files at City Hall or the Chicago Historical Society.</p><p>There are a few gaps. Woodward Drive, a little roadway in Garfield Park, is dismissed with &ldquo;source unknown.&rdquo; Obviously the Park District didn&rsquo;t keep very good records.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/B--Woodward Drive 01.JPG" title="Woodward Drive in Garfield Park" /></div><p>I have no way of proving it, but that&nbsp;roadway was probably named for Augustus Brevoort Woodward.</p><p>Woodward was quite a character. For one thing, when he was born in 1774, his given name was actually Elias. He later changed it to Augustus, after the first Roman emperor. That fact alone tells you something about the man&rsquo;s opinion of himself.</p><p>He came from a prominent New York City merchant family. After graduating from Columbia Woodward got a job in the Treasury Department, and eventually became a lawyer. Along the way he became friends with Thomas Jefferson.</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/B--Woodward.jpg" style="width: 255px; height: 382px; float: right;" title="Augustus Brevoort Woodward (author's collection)" />In 1805 President Jefferson appointed&nbsp;Woodward&nbsp;one of the judges of the Michigan Territory. He&nbsp;arrived in Detroit just after the little settlement had burned down. He immediately went to work rebuilding it.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Woodward&nbsp;put together&nbsp;a grand city plan based on Washington, D.C. Most of it was never realized, though he did name the main street Woodward Avenue, and that stuck. The Judge claimed that the name was merely descriptive of the street&rsquo;s general direction toward the north woods&mdash;&ldquo;wood-ward.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">He was greatly interested in science and education,&nbsp;and in his spare time developed&nbsp; a prospectus for a school he called the Catholepistemiad. Again, only some of Woodward&rsquo;s ideas were adopted.&nbsp;His school later became the University of Michigan.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Woodward&nbsp;scheduled court sessions according to his whims. In summer they were held outdoors under a pear tree. &ldquo;He was known as a two-bottles-a-day man,&rdquo; one historian wrote. &ldquo;It was not unusual for him to fall off the kitchen chair he used as a bench and go to sleep on the ground.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Judge&nbsp;did draw up most of the territorial laws of Michigan, known as the Woodward Code. Still, he had to be the top dog in whatever he did. He quarreled constantly with his fellow judges and the governor. They finally succeeded in getting rid of him.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1824 Woodward was shipped off to Florida as the territorial judge for the new territory. He died there three years later. A bachelor with no family to mourn him, his grave has been lost.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As far as anyone knows, Augustus Brevoort Woodward never visited Chicago. But isn&rsquo;t he the sort of person who deserves a street in our city?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 18 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/mystery-woodward-drive-106129 Why Jefferson Street isn't in the Loop http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/why-jefferson-street-isnt-loop-105110 <p><p>As a Chicago historian, I&rsquo;ve fielded all sorts of questions. Believe it or not, one of the most often asked questions has been&mdash;Why is Jefferson Street off by itself, instead of with the rest of the downtown president streets?</p><p>Thomas Jefferson was one of our greatest presidents. He wrote the Declaration of Independence. His face is on nickels, and on Mount Rushmore, and on the $2 bill. He has his own memorial in Washington. Our city certainly could have remembered him with a more prominent street.</p><p>I came up with various answers why Jefferson was so neglected. Truth is, I didn&rsquo;t really know for sure until recently. Then I got my own copy of A.T. Andreas&rsquo;s <em>History of Chicago</em>.</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/2-4--Chicago%201830--Thompson.jpg" style="width: 375px; height: 242px;" title="Thompson's 1830 Chicago map (Andreas, 'History of Chicago')" /></div><p>Andreas published his opus in the 1880s, and it&rsquo;s unbelievable&mdash;three volumes, running a total of 2,000 pages of tiny type. It has just about anything you&rsquo;d want to know about early Chicago, and even more things that you&rsquo;d never image you wanted to know.</p><p>(One example of the latter&mdash;For Chicago&rsquo;s first mayoral election in 1837, Andreas doesn&#39;t just present the totals. Rather, he goes down the entire list of 709 registered voters by name, and tells us how each person voted! Secret ballots weren&rsquo;t yet in fashion in 1837.)</p><p>I&rsquo;d worked with the Andreas books before, but always in a library. Now all the volumes had been digitalized and I could afford to purchase them, and page through at my leisure. I finally found the answer to the Jefferson Street question in Volume One, on page 194.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-4--Jefferson.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 336px; float: right;" title="'You like me! You really like me!'" />The first survey map of Chicago was platted by James Thompson it 1830. The village limits then stretched from Dearborn Street on the east to Jefferson Street on the west, and from Kinzie Street on the north to Washington Street on the south.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Of course, Dearborn Street was named for Fort Dearborn, which was still operating in 1830. As for the other three street names, Andreas says: &ldquo;From this arrangement (which disarranged the presidential succession), the presumption is reasonable that the Chicagoans named these boundary streets after the three most prominent men, according to their ideas&mdash;George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Kinzie.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Those boundary streets were important to early Chicago, and were named for important people. Washington was&nbsp;the first president. Kinzie was considered Chicago&rsquo;s pioneer settler. So rather than being disrespected, Jefferson was given his particular street as a mark of honor.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">No other presidents had streets in that original survey. Madison, Monroe, and the rest came later. But as Chicago grew and evolved, Jefferson Street became something of a backwater.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And that&rsquo;s why Jefferson Street is where it is.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 14 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/why-jefferson-street-isnt-loop-105110 Honorary Streets or Real Streets? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/honorary-streets-or-real-streets-105393 <p><p>If you listened to &ldquo;The Afternoon Shift&rdquo; yesterday, you know we talked about honorary streets. At last count Chicago had about 1400 of them. Dedicating an honorary street is a convenient way for politicians to keep voters happy, with little effort.</p><p>And yet . . . are there so many honorary streets that the gesture has become meaningless? I&rsquo;m reminded of a friend who was thrilled to receive a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol. Only later did he learn the secret.</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/2-7--Honorary%20Streets.JPG" title="Honoring Our Lady of Victory deacons" /></div><p><u>(SPOILER ALERT--YOU MAY WISH TO SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!)</u></p><p>The Capitol has a special flagpole, on which flags are raised for a few seconds, then lowered. So each day, that results in hundreds of different flags that have been flown over the U.S. Capitol&mdash;technically.</p><p>But back to Chicago street names. Before the honorary street system caught on, the city sometimes changed actual street names. I do know at least four existing streets whose names were changed in 1979:</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/2-7--Bosak%20Ave%20%282012%29.JPG" title="Bosak Avenue" /></div><p>Bosak Avenue (10200 S. from 2434 W to 2444 W). Named for police officer William Bosak, killed in the line of duty in 1979.</p><p>Van Schaik Avenue (10400 S from 2648 W to 2718 W). Named for police officer Roger Van Schaik, killed in the line of duty in the same incident, 1979.</p><p>Stevens Avenue (4028 W-6000 N to 4000 W-6030 N). Named for George Stevens, founder of a manufacturing company on this block.</p><p>Pope John Paul II Drive (4300 S from 2400 W to 3158 W). Named for the pope who visited a parish on this street.</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/2-7--Van%20Schaik%20Ave%20%282013%29_0.JPG" title="Van Schaik Avenue" /></div></div><p>Then came the flap about renaming Evergreen Avenue as Algren Street, which I&rsquo;ve written about. Since then the city has tried to avoid changing existing street names.</p><p>Every so often, Chicago does add new streets, and has to come up with new street names. Some years ago, there was even a new street laid out in Streeterville called&mdash;wait for it&mdash;New Street. Perhaps all the good names&nbsp;had already been&nbsp;used for honorary streets.</p><p>President Obama will probably have a real street renamed for him when he leaves office. As for the rest of us, if we want to get a real green sign instead of an honorary brown one, we&rsquo;d better make friends with a developer.</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/2-7--Stevens%20Ave%20%282012%29.JPG" title="Stevens Avenue" /></div><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/honorary-streets-or-real-streets-105393 Tracking Chicago's shortest streets http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/tracking-chicagos-shortest-streets-103906 <p><p>If you know your Chicago trivia, you know that Western Avenue is the city&rsquo;s longest street. From Howard Street to 119th Street, it runs in a straight line for 23.5 miles. But what is Chicago&rsquo;s shortest street?</p><p>The answer used to be Ziegfeld Court. Named for showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. &mdash; a Chicago native &mdash; 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.</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/11-21--McDermott away from Archer.JPG" title=" McDermott Street--view from Archer" /></div></div><p>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.</p><p>Some people didn&rsquo;t seem to get the news. For many years afterward, various sources still claimed that Ziegfeld Court was Chicago&rsquo;s shortest street. In 2008, <a href="http://forgottenchicago.com/articles/tiny-streets/">Forgotten Chicago attempted to correct that misinformation</a>.</p><p><a href="http://forgottenchicago.com/articles/tiny-streets/">&ldquo;Tiny Streets&rdquo;</a> 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 &mdash;what a layperson might call house numbers.</p><p>Using that criterion, Chicago&rsquo;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&rsquo;s eight address points.</p><p>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&rsquo;s second-shortest street, with ten address points.</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/11-21--Hoey%20toward%20Mary.JPG" title="Hoey Street--view from Poplar" /></div><p>A few weeks ago I was driving down Archer Avenue and decided to visit these two little streets. The city&rsquo;s address-point system can be inconsistent, so I paced off both McDermott and Hoey.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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&rsquo;d better get going before the first snow comes.</p></p> Wed, 21 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/tracking-chicagos-shortest-streets-103906 This was Chicago: A major street in 1914 and 2012 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/was-chicago-major-street-1914-and-2012-103786 <p><p>My e-mails tell me you are having fun with the old Chicago photos. Many of the places are greatly changed, but someone is always able to identify the location.</p><p>I recently came across the two pictures below. They&#39;re both from 1914, and show a major street within the Chicago city limits, on the Southwest Side.</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/11-16-1914a.jpg" title="1914--location 'A' (Library of Congress)" /></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/11-16-1914-b.jpg" title="1914--location 'B' (Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>I started driving a car in 1968, so I got the job of being my Grandma Price&#39;s chauffeur. Every so often, we&#39;d drive down a street and she&#39;d shake her head in amazement. Then she&#39;d tell me about how she remembered when it had been a &quot;cowpath.&quot;</p><p>Grandma grew up on the Northwest Side. She probably wasn&#39;t familiar with the sites in the pictures. They were taken on Western Avenue, at a time when the streetcars went only as far south at 79th Street. The line was extended in 1931, and development followed.</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/Western-116th%20%282012%29.JPG" title="2012--location 'A'--Western Avenue at 116th Street, view north" /></div><p>Without the caption, I don&#39;t see how anyone today could have identified location &quot;A.&quot; I suspect the people of 1914 could not have done it. Without any landmarks, most country roads look the same.</p><p>However, I did consider using location &quot;B&quot; for the &quot;Where in Chicago?&quot; quiz. There is a clue to the site in the 1914 photo.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Western-87th (2012).JPG" title="2012--location 'B'--Western Avenue at 87th Street, view north" /></div><p>Notice that the auto in the picture is climbing a hill. That&#39;s the clue. There aren&#39;t many hills in Chicago.</p><p>In 2012 the hill is still there, and location &quot;B&quot; still appears somewhat rural. The east side of Western Avenue (photo right) is forest preserve. The west side is the Beverly Country Club. The highest point within the Chicago city limits is on the 2nd tee of the golf course.</p><p>Next week there will be another &quot;Where in Chicago?&quot; quiz. Good luck!</p></p> Fri, 16 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/was-chicago-major-street-1914-and-2012-103786 The short, unhappy life of Algren Street http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/short-unhappy-life-algren-street-103434 <p><p>Nelson Algren&mdash;one of America&rsquo;s great writers and a charter member of the Chicago Hall of Fame&mdash;died in 1981. Columnist Mike Royko had been one of his friends. Royko came up with what seemed like an appropriate way to honor Algren.</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/11-14--Algren%20%28LofC%29.jpg" style="float: left; height: 318px; width: 250px;" title="Nelson Algren (Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>For many years Algren had lived in a three-story walkup at 1958 West Evergreen Avenue. &ldquo;It would be a nice gesture for [the city] to rename one of the little streets around Wicker Park after him,&rdquo; Royko wrote. &ldquo;Algren Court or Algren Place. Nothing big. He wouldn&rsquo;t expect it.&rdquo;</p><p>That was in May. Early the next year, Royko received word that Mayor Jane Byrne had taken up his suggestion. Evergreen Avenue, between Milwaukee and Damen, would be renamed Algren Street. The mayor even sent Royko one of the new street signs.</p><p>The trouble started when city crews began putting up those signs.</p><p>Algren had never been popular with the city&rsquo;s Polish community, who thought his writings slandered them. There were still a lot of Poles living in Wicker Park in 1982. They didn&rsquo;t like the new street name.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-14--Algren's Home.JPG" style="float: right; height: 326px; width: 217px;" title="Algren's walkup on Evergreen Avenue" /></div><p>Neither did some of the people who lived on Evergreen. Handbills began circulating in the neighborhood. They warned of all the problems and expense the name change would cause.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Residents would have to spend a small fortune revising their driver&rsquo;s licenses and other official documents. Delivery men and visitors would get lost. Someone might even die if an ambulance couldn&rsquo;t locate an address.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Pressure was put on the alderman to change the name back. In the meantime, activists began hanging cardboard signs reading &ldquo;EVERGREEN&rdquo; over the Algren Street signs.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">After a few weeks of guerilla war, the city gave in. It turned out that the crews had put up the &ldquo;Algren&rdquo; signs before the City Council had officially voted on the mayor&rsquo;s proposal. The local alderman asked his colleagues reject the name change, and they did. Evergreen remained Evergreen.</div><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/11-14--Algren Tribute.JPG" style="float: left; height: 320px; width: 240px;" title="Algren 'Chicago Tribute' marker" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The whole business made an impression on the politicians. Shortly after the Algren Street debacle, Chicago began issuing honorary street names&mdash;those brown and white signs you see hung under the real street signs at hundreds of places around town. That way, some worthy person can be memorialized without arousing the voters&rsquo; wrath.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I&#39;d thought the city had settled on making the few blocks of Evergreen an honorary Algren Street. But when I visited there recently, I didn&rsquo;t see one brown sign. And in front of Algren&rsquo;s old home, the Chicago Tribute marker is tilting badly to one side. It looks like it was hit by a truck.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Some people have long memories. &nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 12 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/short-unhappy-life-algren-street-103434 Ghost Street: North Ogden Avenue http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/ghost-street-north-ogden-avenue-103468 <p><p>Driving north on Ogden Avenue, just&nbsp;past Fry Street, you come upon a concrete railroad overpass, emblazoned with the name of your street and the year &ldquo;1925.&rdquo;&nbsp;You emerge on the other side, and Ogden abruptly ends.&nbsp;You have just discovered a classic example of urban planning gone wrong.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-05--Ogden%20%40%20Fry.JPG" title="Ogden Avenue at Fry Street, 2012" /></div><p>Ogden Avenue is named after Chicago&rsquo;s first mayor, William B. Ogden.&nbsp;Like many of Chicago&rsquo;s major diagonal streets, it follows the path of an old trail. The original starting point of the street was Union Park.&nbsp;From there it ran southwest to the city limits and beyond.</p><p>As early as the 1880s, plans were hatched to extend Ogden to the northeast.&nbsp;In 1903, Alderman William E. Dever unveiled an ambitious project to push Ogden through to Lincoln Park, while building another diagonal boulevard from Union Park southeast to the lakefront at 22<sup>nd</sup> Street (Cermak). The idea was to provide two speedy bypasses around the Loop.&nbsp;There would also be two new streets opened for commercial development.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><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/11-05--Cram's map.jpg" style="float: left; height: 307px; width: 325px;" title="North Ogden Avenue (Cram's Chicago Street Map, 1935)" /></div></div></div><p>The southeast route was never built.&nbsp;But in 1921, the city began constructing the northeast Ogden extension.&nbsp;The roadway was designed to accommodate six lanes of vehicular traffic, with a separate&nbsp;parkway in the middle for streetcar tracks.&nbsp;The first stage was completed in 1925 and dedicated by ex-alderman Dever, by now the mayor of Chicago.</p><p>Construction continued for several years.&nbsp;The most notable feature was a half-mile long viaduct, which carried Ogden over Goose Island and the Halsted-Division intersection.&nbsp;The street was finally cut through to its Lincoln Park terminus, at Clark and Armitage, in 1934.</p><p>There it remained. Buses were becoming the favored form of mass transit, so the new section of Ogden never did get streetcar tracks.&nbsp;Then, the city completed its expressway system in the 1960s. The Ogden extension was no longer needed as downtown bypass, and traffic on the street steadily declined.</p><p>In the area between North and Armitage, neighborhood residents now demanded that Ogden be removed&ndash;the 100-foot-wide swath through their community was a blight, and served no useful purpose.&nbsp;The city agreed.&nbsp;In 1969, the section of Ogden north of North Avenue was closed and built over.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-05--Ogden%20Ave%20%28The%20Plan%20of%20Chicago%201933%29.jpg" title="Ogden Avenue, looking southwest from Lincoln Park (The Plan of Chicago 1933)" /></div><p>A few years later, the street was cut back to Clybourn.&nbsp;Then, in 1992, chunks of concrete started falling off the Ogden viaduct on Goose Island.&nbsp;Rather than spend money to fix the structure, the city tore it down.</p><p>Today, except for a couple of isolated sections, Ogden Avenue halts at the Fry Street railroad overpass.&nbsp;That means that roughly two-thirds of the northeast extension has been abandoned&ndash;after taking thirteen years to complete, and costing millions of dollars, and requiring the removal of hundreds of homes and businesses.</p><p>Easy come, easy go.</p></p> Mon, 05 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/ghost-street-north-ogden-avenue-103468 Peshtigo Court: Why is a Chicago street named after a small Wisconsin town? http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-07-29/peshtigo-court-why-chicago-street-named-after-small-wisconsin-town-89 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-July/2011-07-30/pesh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Almost any Chicago street name tells a story. Take Peshtigo Court. It&#39;s the last street you cross on the way to Navy Pier, before you duck under the Lake Shore Drive viaduct.</p><p>Peshtigo Court is one block long. The street is named for a Wisconsin village north of Green Bay, about 250 miles from Chicago.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-22/7-27--Peshtigo Court.JPG" style="margin: 5px; width: 498px; height: 373px;" title="" /></p><p>In 1871 Peshtigo was a booming lumber town of 1700 people. The summer that year had been hot and dry. Now, in the early days of October, many small fires had been breaking out in the surrounding forest. The locals thought nothing of it.</p><p>October 8 was a Sunday. Just as Peshtigo was getting ready for bed, a heavy wind suddenly whipped in from the southwest. Then a wall of flame swept down on the town.</p><p>Within minutes everything was burning. People ran out of their homes in night clothes. Most of them headed for the river. Others took refuge in stone cellars or jumped down wells. Those who weren&#39;t fast enough, or lucky enough, were incinerated. The air temperature pushed past 1000 degrees--about as hot as a crematorium.</p><p>Chaos reigned at the river. Some people simply gave in to fatigue and sank beneath the water. One man discovered that the burned woman he&#39;d carried to safety was not his wife, and became hysterical. A teenage girl stayed afloat by hanging onto the horn of a bull.</p><p>In an hour the flames moved on. Before it burned itself out, the blaze destroyed an area as big as Rhode Island and took over 2,000 lives. Peshtigo alone lost 800. Though many theories have been advanced, the cause of the fire has never been determined.</p><p>So what&#39;s this have to do with Chicago, and why do we have a street named Peshtigo Court?</p><p>On that very same October 8, 1871--at the very same hour--the Great Chicago Fire began. Almost everything east of the Chicago River, from Taylor up to Fullerton, was destroyed. The death toll was 200.</p><p>A major city had been destroyed, and that was big news. But the Peshtigo fire was barely noted, even though ten times as many people had been killed. To the average American of 1871, backwoods Wisconsin was about as remote as Africa or India. Yeah, 2,000 people died out there--too bad, let&#39;s move on.</p><p>Today the town of Peshtigo maintains a museum in memory of its 1871 fire victims. And we in Chicago remember them, too.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jul 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-07-29/peshtigo-court-why-chicago-street-named-after-small-wisconsin-town-89