Saturday, March 11, 2017

The History of Chicago's President Street Names.

As anyone familiar with downtown Chicago knows the "President Streets" are an old city tradition.

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 named after them. Since there were two presidents named Adams, Quincy Street honors president #6, John Quincy Adams.
Jackson Boulevard is named for Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States.
Franklin Street is named for Benjamin Franklin.
The one president without a street is, John Tyler President #10. 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.

After Fillmore left office in 1853, the city seems to have abandoned the custom of automatically giving a president his own street. Now the Presidents have to earn the honor.

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.

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.

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 , as explained in the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ article "Chicago's Western Avenue was Changed to Woodrow Wilson Road in 1924.That lasted about a month, until pressure from business owners brought back the old name.

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.

The honorary street name program has been in place since 1964 when a stretch of LaSalle Street was designated “The Golden Mile” to honor the city’s financial institutions. 

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