Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Mystery of "Agatite" Avenue's Name Has Been Solved!

Agatite Avenue (4432N - 800W to 8642W). The street name is a mystery. "Agatite" apparently is not a word, and there seems to be no famous, infamous, or obscure person by that name in Chicago history.
West Agatite and North Lavergne Avenues, Chicago


The street is named after a gypsum clay cement manufactured by the Agatite Cement Plaster Company of Kansas City, Missouri. It is basically a plaster substitute. This excerpt from American Cements by Uriah Cummings (1898) described its properties and usages.

The Agatite Cement Plaster Company of Kansas City controls a bed of this material at or near Dillon, Kansas is estimated to contain about six million tons Prof. Edwin Walters in a report on this material, says:

Agatite is of a light ash-gray color. Its natural consistency is about that of hard plastic clay. When calcined (calcined clay is a popular soil amendment used on baseball infields for water management) it assumes a form. When mixed with water it sets as does cement. There needs to be ample time between mixing the mortar to be applied to its intended use to set.

Agatite does not differ widely in composition from the Great Pyramid of Giza (aka Pyramid of Cheops) Egypt. The cement runs higher in sulphate than lime and lower in iron oxide. 

Egypt and Mexico climates permit Agatite for exterior use. It was used in Southern States on brick, stone or wooden structures. Agatite produces a pleasing architectural effect at a low cost. It was used as an outside covering of the walls of the World’s Fair Buildings at Chicago which, however, were temporary structures.

Large quantities of it were used in plastering the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition white stucco-covered buildings in Chicago. Agatite was also used on most of the White City Amusement Park buildings, at 63rd & South Parkway (Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive), in Chicago. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

3 comments:

  1. I've wondered about this for years! The conclusion in Hayner and McNamee's "Streetwise" that it was simply an error was the explanation that seemed best, until now.

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  2. Interesting that the street was named after a type of plaster.

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  3. I'm very impressed. I've wondered about this street name ever since I lived on Agatite back in the 80s, not two blocks from where the picture of the street sign was taken.

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