What’s In a Name? Discover the History Behind Chicago Street Names

By Patty Wetli | Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicago's street names have a varied history. Credit: Patty Wetli

Here’s a fun time-suck for your afternoon, courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society: a searchable document listing the history behind the naming of Chicago’s streets, avenues and boulevards, from Abbott to Zion.

Half the city’s residents will be disappointed to know they live on a block memorializing some long-dead real estate developer, or his wife, daughter or friend. (Picture Trump Tower dwellers 150 years from now.) Other streets have far more interesting and, literally, noble origins:

  • Lincoln Avenue. Um, really, do we have to spell this one out?
  • Irving Park, after Washington Irving
  • Wilson, after John P. Wilson, donor of the money used to found Children’s Memorial Hospital
  • Damen, after Fr. Arnold Damen, founder of St. Ignatius College, which became Loyola University
  • Montrose, after James G. Montrose, the Marquis of Hamilton, a Scot noble
  • Winnemac, after a chief of the Piute Tribe

Remember, if your boss swings by and asks what you’re up to, it’s technically not a lie to answer, “Research.”


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  • Anonymous

    This is super fun – thank you for the tip! Just looked up Berteau, where I’ve lived on and around for 9 years, and it’s a great one, too - ”Named after F.G. Berteau a French socialist and later an
    American citizen.  Societe Francaise de Bienfaisance De Illinois important French residents of city were members.”

  • Anonymous

    There is also a book published in 1988 called Streetwise Chicago:A History of Chicago Street Names by Don Hayner and Tom McNamee that does the same. 

  • Anonymous

    Hmm….I’ve lived at the corner of my current street and Forest Preserve Drive for 40+ years.  A couple of years ago, I noticed Google Maps made the error of calling it Forest Preserve Avenue. Since then, I’ve seen it referred to as that name within a number of applications….either databases are being created and grabbing this info, or it really was Forest Preserve Avenue prior to the 1970s.  This is going to drive me crazy now…..Can anyone shed some light?

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