Think you’re Streeterville streetwise? Take this quiz to find out
By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer
Chicago’s extensive grid of streets can be seen clearly on a map, or from the window of an airplane above the city. The roadways make Chicago recognizable and navigable for residents who use the streets all day, every day.
The streets, however, are more than routes to stores and offices. They are markers of history, pathways to the city’s nearly forgotten past. So just how much do residents know about their streets?
Think you’re streetwise? Take our quiz and find out:
Peshtigo Court was named after:
- a) A town in Wisconsin
- b) A railroad company
- c) A famous architect
Grand Avenue used to be called:
- a) Indiana Street
- b) It was always called Grand
- c) 7th Avenue
McClurg Court was named after:
- a) The mayor’s son-in-law
- b) A bookseller and Civil War hero
- c) A fur trader
Fairbanks was named after:
- a) A meat packer
- b) Chicago’s first boat captain
- c) A famous doctor
Will Rivera, head concierge at 500 N. Lake Shore Drive between Peshtigo Court and Lake Shore Drive, knew that Grand Avenue was once known as Indiana Street. As for the history of the other three Streeterville street names, Rivera guessed incorrectly. He said he isn’t necessarily interested in the history of street names, but likes when the city dedicates honorary streets to specific people. “I think that’s pretty cool, because it does something for society and the community,” Rivera said.
Victoria Stewart, a graduate school student walking along the Magnificent Mile, got zero of the four street-name questions correct. She has an excuse—she has only lived in Chicago for about a month.
If you’re a long-time Chicagoan and got less than 100 percent, what’s your excuse? Well, never fear, we’ll get you up to speed on the history of your hood—just don’t miss our next edition.
Following is the history of some Streeterville streets, with help from Peter T. Alter, a historian at the Chicago History Museum and Director of the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History and for the book Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names.
North Peshtigo Court, a block-long street just north of Ogden Slip, was named after a town and a river in northeastern Wisconsin. “Somewhat by coincidence, the town Peshtigo, Wisc., burned to the ground at the same time the Great Chicago Fire was happening in 1871,” Alter said.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Peshtigo fire was the deadliest forest fire in American history, killing more than 1,200 people. But the fire was ultimately overshadowed by the Great Chicago Fire, which started the same night. As it happened, William Ogden, Chicago’s first mayor, owned a lumber company in Peshtigo at the time of the fire, according to the Sentinel Structures website. Alter said he isn’t sure when Peshtigo Court was given its name.
Just west of Peshtigo, Fairbanks Court runs north and south near Northwestern University’s Streeterville campus. The street got its name from a man named Nathaniel Kellogg “N.K.” Fairbank, according to Alter.
“[Fairbank] was one of those new millionaires based on industries like meatpacking and banking and real estate, which Chicago had a fair amount of for its size in the late 19th and real early 20th centuries,” Alter said. Marshall Field and George Pullman were among Fairbank’s famous friends.
It’s common for Chicago streets to be named “after wealthy business people, men, almost entirely,” Alter said. “Men and real estate folk.”
N.K. Fairbank was the original owner of the land that is now Streeterville, according to the Williams Bay, Wisc., Historical Society. Fairbanks Court was named as a “testament to the long-running feud” between Fairbank and George Streeter, a squatter in the area who refused to leave.
One block east of Fairbanks lies North McClurg Court, was named for Alexander C. McClurg, Alter said. McClurg was a bookseller, a publisher and a Civil War hero for the Union. Naming streets after local Civil War heroes was “very typical,” Alter said. He couldn’t say why a street in Streeterville was named after McClurg. “Sometimes there are those connections and sometimes not,” he said.
Grand Avenue runs east and west between Ohio and Illinois streets, intersecting with McClurg one block west of N. Lake Shore Drive. Grand, Alter said, hasn’t always been Grand Avenue—it was formerly known as Indiana Street (with no connection to Indiana Avenue, which runs north and south through the South Side). “There was, for a long time in Chicago history, double street names,” Alter said.
Grand Avenue has the “obvious implication” of a “grand street,” he said, but in 1833, Chicago’s first town president (not mayor), Thomas Jefferson Vance Owen, said, “Chicago is a grand place to live,” providing inspiration for the street’s name.
Alter said Grand Avenue is also a former Native American trail. Where Grand hits Western, it diverges from the city’s grid pattern. Clybourn and Milwaukee avenues also run diagonally and are former Native American trails, he said.
Street names are “very important” when thinking about a city’s history, Alter said. “They give you, for lack of a better term, a roadmap to…the individuals, the organizations, the places” that were significant in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Published Oct. 2, 2018