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 west of Cicero by the "L" streets, then after Central Avenue comes the "M" streets, and Narragansett leads off the "N" streets. 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 instituted the new street renaming and renumbering system to avoid duplicate street names from all the surrounding 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 was kept as is.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

14 comments:

  1. This is great! I actually live a half block from Lowell and have wondered this myself.

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  2. I do family research and both my husband's family and mine have pretty deep Chicago roots. Learning more about the naming, and numbering along with the history of area is always interesting. THANK YOU!!! I have had to try and unearth some of these answers and have been coming to your library for years.

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  3. Well that is true, except all the streets in Old Irving previously had names. Mine was 44th Place. So why did only Tripp and Lowell keep their old names?

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    1. As it says in the article above: "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."

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  4. I noticed Keystone was not part of the K streets in this article, would you be able to explain why? Thanks :)

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    1. I grew up on Keokuk Ave. 4513 to be exact. Great neighborhood for kids. Went to St Edwards school and graduated from Alvernia High School!!

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    2. Grew up on Kildare, smack dab between the two non - conformers. I was just south of Montrose. Great neighborhood. Thank you yet again, Neil.

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  5. Another K street not mentioned is Keokuk Avenue. It is only one or two blocks long in the entire city. My grandparents had a home on this street and my mother grew up there. Interesting article.

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  6. Dear Mr. Gale, you haven't even mentioned Sheriff John Gray in your article. He was one of the founders of OIP - he and his wife Phoebe had a 300 acre farm here, and eventually sold off most of it for homes to be built. My husband and I live in his house, built in 1856. The Metra Grayland station is named for him. He dug an artesian well for the neighborhood, and eventually built a brick mansion where Shurz High School is now. I'm surprised that there was no mention of him.

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    1. I provided a link to the subdivision of Grayland. I've added a reference to Grayland in the text. Click the "Grayland" link to read more about John Gray.

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  7. I lived in the suburb of Worth in the O streets. Oketo, Octavia...and the streets alternated numbered 112th Street, 112th Place, 113th Street, 113th Place and so on.

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  8. Sw Side In Ktown streets are different from some North side streets.. Ktown In Little for example doesn't have Keystone street 🤷‍♂️♡◇♧

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