Friday, February 22, 2019

The history of the "Old Jambeau trail" aka: the "Green Bay trail," from Chicago Illinois to Green Bay Wisconsin.

Eleven or twelve thousand years ago, it is likely that woolly mammoths traveled along an Ice Age migration path that formed the original Green Bay trail. Geologist Herman Bender of the University of Wisconsin states that geologic and climatic conditions favored the woolly on its northward migration along the Lake Border Moraine (an accumulation of earth and stones deposited by a glacier). Ice Age hunters followed in pursuit; evidence of this exists in Kenosha where spear points and woolly mammoth bones were discovered in the only confirmed woolly mammoth slaughter site east of the Mississippi River.

For many millennia after that, the history of the Green Bay trail remains unclear, although indigenous tribes probably followed the path hunting and trading. In the 1600s French explorers Joliet and Marquette used the route in their travels, and it is also likely that French Canadian fur traders and coureurs de bois (“wood-rangers”) traversed the ancient trail. We know that tribes of the Algonquin family, most recently the Potawatomi, used it until the early 19th century.
Chicago area map of the Green Bay trail.
In 1792, a Frenchman living in Green Bay Wisconsin, who worked for the American Fur Company was assigned to establish trading posts near Indian villages. His name was Jacques Vieau Sr., but Indians had difficultly pronouncing his name so they called him Jean Beau, or Jambeau. Jambeau's trading post at Skunk Grove (7 miles west of lake Michigan) was in the town of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. The trail between Green Bay and Chicago became known as the "Old Jambeau trail" and became a set route for travel by horseback and foot alike.

During the first decades of the 1800s, early settlers, remote from the more heavily traveled east-west transportation routes, welcomed the first mail carriers. Their nearly 500-mile round trip between Fort Dearborn in Chicago and Fort Howard in Green Bay took one month on foot in winter. (In summer the mail was sent by boat on Lake Michigan.) Pay for this extremely difficult trip was $60 to $70. Death by freezing and starvation, or at the hands of hostile tribes, was a frequent hazard. 

In 1832 an Act of Congress established the Green Bay trail as an official post road, although it was marshy and nearly impassable for a horse and wagon. Locally the road, marked by trail trees, had what was known as a “wet” and “dry” route. The wet route ran along higher ground. The dry route ran closer to the lake near the present-day Sheridan Road.

The Green Bay trail starts in Chicago with the two alternative routes mentioned above, each of which gave rise, in the period of European settlement, to an important highway. The first, which is the one more commonly identified with Green Bay road, started at the north end of the Michigan Avenue bridge and ran north along the height of land between the lake shore and the North Branch of the river. The route led north on Rush Street as far as Chicago Avenue and from there northwesterly for a mile to the intersection of Clark Street and North Avenue. Continuing northwest, the trail kept inland from the lake some distance, coming in sight of it between Chicago and Milwaukee only at Grosse Pointe (now Evanston). It passes Waukegan three miles inland, Kenosha and Racine Wisconsin about five miles inland.
The first stagecoach service began in 1836, with an open lumber wagon offering space for mail and passengers from Chicago to Green Bay with intermediate stops. Wooden rods were erected over rivers and ditches to aid passage. It runs along the track bed of the former Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, which runs parallel to the Union Pacific (then the Chicago & Northwestern) North Line. Along the trail wayside inns (called “Groceries” that sold liquor by the drink) were built. Sometimes intoxicated patrons froze to death traveling from tavern to tavern.
The northern end of the "Old Jambeau trail" aka: the "Green Bay trail."
In 1838 Congress appropriated funds for the construction of a road from the Illinois state line north to Green Bay, a convenient highway built along the west shore of Lake Michigan.

Today the original Green Bay trail is covered in part by Sheridan and Green Bay Roads. The Shore Line was abandoned in 1955; the right-of-way was then leased to the Green Bay trail Committee for development.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Morgan Park Community is home to Chicago's pioneer Negro settlement, dating back to the 1880s.

The earliest days of Morgan Park included a small settlement of Negroes, some of whom were former slaves and others descended from Southern slave families, who migrated north after the Civil War, French immigrants also settled in Morgan Park. They settled east of Vincennes Avenue, near the main line of the Rock Island railroad.
Map of Morgan Park, Illinois, as laid out by Thomas F. Nichols for the Blue Island Land and Building Company, 1870.
Morgan Park is13 miles south of the Loop and is one of the city's 77 official community areas. It was laid out in the 1870s by Thomas F. Nichols, so Morgan Park's winding streets, small parks, and roundabouts evoke images of an English country town. In 1869, the Blue Island Land and Building Company purchased property from the heirs of Thomas Morgan, an early English settler, and subdivided the area from Western Avenue to Vincennes Avenue that falls within the present community area. Although the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the area in 1852, regular commuter service to downtown was not established until the suburban line opened in 1888.

They established their own churches, beginning with Beth Eden in 1891 which was the first of more than 19 churches organized by Negro families who lived in the segregated district east of Vincennes, near the main line of the Rock Island railroad. Public institutions such as the Walker Branch Library (founded in 1890) and the Morgan Park High School (built in 1916) were always integrated.

On the other side of the tracks near 117th Street, French Roman Catholics who worked in the local Purington brickyard established Sacred Heart Church (1904).

The battle over annexation to Chicago in 1911, which sharply divided the community, dragged on in court until 1914.

By 1920, 674 of Morgan Park's 7,780 residents were Negroes (11.5%). The official report published in the wake of the city's 1919 race riot (the Red Summer) noted that, while whites and blacks in Morgan Park “maintain a friendly attitude,” nevertheless “there seems to be a common understanding that Negroes must not live west of Vincennes Road, which bisects the town from northeast to southwest
Second grade at Holy Name of Mary School. 1955
Reflecting the reality of urban segregation, black Catholics established Holy Name of Mary (1940) at the east end of the community. Racial integration in the larger Morgan Park area did not occur on a large scale until the late 1960s. By then, however, the west leg of Interstate 57 had effectively isolated the older black settlement east of Vincennes.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How did streets named Tripp and Lowell Avenues get mixed in with Chicago's "Alphabet Town" K streets?

Alphabet Town begins just west of Pulaski, where the streets start with the letter K, almost four miles west of Lake Shore Drive. The K streets are succeeded after Cicero by the L streets; after Central come the M streets; and Narragansett leads off the Ns. On the north side, where Chicago extends farther west, there are even O and P streets.
To make matters more confusing, Chicago's Southeast Side has north-south streets that are named by a letter alone; "A" (Avenue A, Avenue B, etc.) and extend westward from the Indiana state line to "Avenue O."

In K-Town, on the far northside, the Avenues, traveling westbound, are Karlov, Kedvale, Keokuk, Keystone, Keeler, TRIPP, Kildare, LOWELL, Kostner, Kenneth, Kilbourn, Kenton, Knox, Kolmar, Kilpatrick, and Keating Avenues, depending on your north or south location. Notice that Tripp and Lowell avenues somehow snuck its way into K-Town.
Old Irving Park borders are Montrose to the North, Addison to the South, Pulaski Avenue to the East, and the Milwaukee Road Railway (the RR tracks running parallel to Kilbourn/Kolmar) to the West (which did not go to Cicero Avenue). These borders were determined by the original two farms that dominated the landscape when the area was first developed in 1869.
So why start alphabetically-naming streets starting at Pulaski Road with the letter "K"? In 1909, Chicago instuted the new street renaming and renumbering system to avoid duplicate street names from all the surounding towns that were annexed into Chicago which was a nightmare for the U.S. postal service.

At the time, residential development was flourishing in a radius extending north, northwest, and southwest from the Loop. Many streets, such as Racine, Southport, etc., were already named. Development west of Pulaski (which was once named Crawford Avenue), was just starting to increase with new streets needing to be named.

The Old Irving Park neighborhood is situated at the beginning (east side) of the alphabetical street-naming action, with Pulaski on the eastern edge. The area's north-south streets appear to follow the usual naming convention, until the keen-eyed Chicagoan might notice several "K" streets are missing. How can streets go missing in a city? Yet it becomes clear when comparing Old Irving Park to adjacent "K-Town" neighborhoods, it's missing several avenues, including Komensky, Kolin, and Karlov. 

There is at least one very evident explanation for the missing "K" streets of the Old Irving Park neighborhood by simply looking at a map of Chicago streets. When comparing Old Irving Park's north-south streets to, for example, the Archer Heights neighborhood of the city's southwest side, it's glaringly evident that not only does Old Irving Park contain fewer streets, but individual homes situated within that area have larger property lots than of areas with the full amount of "K" streets.

Chicago's allotted measurements of the majority of its individual "Standard Lots" date back to the 19th Century; set at 24 x 125. This is generally true for most of the City and some of its neighboring suburbs. However, Old Irving Park was developed initially as a separate sub-division of the city in the late 19th century. Thus, it was developed with lots that are nearly twice as large as the Standard Chicago Lot to attract families and larger house developments of the day. How does a 19th century developer create larger home lots? Easy; take out some streets! 

Thus explains the conundrum of Chicago's "K" streets.

Now, about the mysterious Lowell and Tripp Avenues:

Lowell Avenue is where Kolin Avenue is from the southside "K-Town. Lowell Avenue was named for F.W. Lowell who was the first teacher in the Andersonville School at Foster and Ashland Avenues around 1861.

Tripp Avenue was named for Dr. Robinson Tripp, called "Father Tripp" who bought a lot on Lake Street in the downtown area in 1853 and laid the first sidewalk in town.

Both Lowell and Tripp Avenues were already named before the 1909 street renaming and renumbering system went into effect and were kept as is.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Major Noble purchased land and started farming in the 1840s. Noble sold his land to a New York family (Charles T. Race and four other relatives that comprised the Irving Park Land and Building Company) and moved to McHenry County to farm in 1869. 

With the land so close to the Chicago & North Western (C&NW) railroad, Race realized there would be more profit in beginning a settlement over using the land for farming and began building houses. After Race paid for a depot, first called "Irvington" as a tribute to author Washington Irving, C&NW agreed to stop at the settlement, which was soon renamed Irving Park.

Race built himself a three-story brick house with a basement and “French roof.” Joined by associates, he organized the Irving Park Land Company, bought additional land, and subdivided it into lots. Advertisements promoted the area's easy access to downtown via hourly trains. Boasting an idyllic setting comparable to that of suburbs such as Evanston and Oak Park, the ad pointed to Irving Park’s “shady streets, fine schools, churches and stores,” and homes of varied designs. The Irving Park subdivision was followed by Grayland, Montrose, and Mayfair.

The commuter suburb attracted many wealthy residents who sought larger homes of between seven and ten rooms, and amenities that included closets and drinking water from artesian wells. Race and his associates garnered a 600 percent profit on the land. Other residents who were less affluent came to the area to remove their families from the dangers of the city. Rich or middle-class, the population of Irving Park was generally native-born, Protestant, and white-collar. They participated in community events and activities of a literary and musical nature. Both men and women were active in neighborhood organizations. The Irving Park Woman's Club formed in 1888 with an agenda of cultural and reform activities.

Suburban paradise was not without problems, however. In the 1880s heavy rains produced floods, and poor drainage turned unpaved streets to mud. In 1881 complaints were heard of raw sewage floating down Irving Park Road from the Cook County Poor House and Insane Asylum in Dunning.

Although annexation of Irving Park into the city of Chicago as part of Jefferson Township occurred in 1889, in the 1890s streets were still unpaved and unlighted. As improvements were added, the main thoroughfare became a construction zone; streets were updated and public transportation was created. A residential boom between 1895 and 1914 added more than 5,000 new buildings, of which 1,200 were multifamily residences. New structures changed the housing composition of the area, leading to concerns about community standards.

Germans and Swedes had begun arriving around the turn of the century but in the 1920s were largely replaced by Poles and Russians. Population peaked at 66,783 in 1930, and commercial interests sprang up along the major roads, but until 1940, construction was mainly residential. Most notable architecturally were the bungalows of the Villa District; Old Irving Park with Queen Anne, Victorian, and Italianate houses, farmhouses, and bungalows; and Independence Park with many homes of turn-of-the-century vintage.