Researching Chicago’s Streets Over Time

Census enumeration page showing residents for South Ann Street

As we learned in my last post, the tireless efforts of Edward Brennan simplified the street names and house numbers of Chicago. These street name and number changes cause confusion for researchers. Tracking down an address can be difficult if you do not have a modern street name. Some streets have had many name changes. Pulaski […]

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Not Lost? Thank Edward Brennan

Street signs showing the intersection of State and Madison Streets.

We owe our cohesive street naming and numbering system to Edward P. Brennan. Brennan was the chairman of the City Club of Chicago's Committee on Street Names. His vision included three changes: The house and building numbering system should tell you where you are relative to the Loop. Streets should be named the same throughout […]

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From Chaos: Chicago’s Street System

Aerial view of Chicago's northside light by street lights at night

In this age of GPS, having a sense of direction is often a vestigial skill. In some parts of the world, wayfinding is often practiced with regard to mountains – landmarks that you can see and tell if you are going toward, away from or alongside of. Chicago has sometimes been said to be the […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Artesian Wells

Large Building with pond

Have you ever wondered what a street named Artesian Avenue is doing tucked between the likes of Western and Campbell Avenues? In 1863 a clairvoyant convinced A.E. Swift and Thomas Whitehead that Chicago was the perfect place to drill for oil. Here is the story as told by materials in Special Collection’s West Town Community […]

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History of Grant Park 1915-1930

ship with Navy Pier in background

Previous Post: Grant Park 1913 During the teens and 1920s, the South Park Commissioners built a number of ornamental viaducts across the Illinois Central tracks and extended roads into the new parkland. They also engaged in landscaping and accepted the gift of Buckingham Fountain. The wide open grassy spaces proved ideal for landing airplanes. Grant […]

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Mapmakers Lie! Grant Park in 1913

Map showing features described

Previous Post: Grant Park 1909-1914 To show that illustrators and mapmakers can lead you seriously astray, here is an enlargement from Birds Eye View of the Elevated Railroads, Parks and Boulevards of Chicago published in 1913. The unwary sightseer who took “Lincoln Park Boulevard” over the bridge through beautifully landscaped Grant Park to “Fields Museum” […]

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History of Grant Park 1909-14

Biplane over Art Institute

Previous Post: Grant Park 1900-1908 In 1909 Montgomery Ward won his long legal battle to keep Grant Park “Forever Open, Clear, and Free.” Buildings could not be built in the original Lake Front Park without the unanimous consent of the building owners across Michigan Avenue.  Ironically the open grassy area proved ideal as an airfield--to […]

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History of Grant Park 1900-1908

Park, railroad and lake

 Previous Post: Grant Park 1872-1899 In 1901, the City Council changed the name of Lake Park to Grant Park.  The Naval Reserve berthed the USS Dorthea at the foot of Randolph Street, occupying a sliver of the military reservation.     The Plan of Chicago was heavily promoted with speeches such as Chicago Can Get Fifty […]

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History of Grant Park 1872-1899

Map showing harbor

Previous: 1830-1871 The lagoon between Michigan Avenue and the railroad tracks provided a convenient dumping place for demolition debris after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The 1879 map shows Lake Front Park extending south to 12th Street. The lagoon had been filled in and an Exposition Building built south of Madison. It also appeared that the Illinois Central […]

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History of Grant Park 1830-1871

Train on trestle

I am taking a break from “Technology that Changed Chicago,” or at least the title, to do a series of posts on Grant Park. Grant Park, sometimes known as Chicago’s front yard, is by far the most engineered of Chicago's parks. It has almost entirely been built with landfill in Lake Michigan. Additionally a huge […]

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