7 on the Streets: Damen Avenue, Halsted Street, Ogden Avenue

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Have you ever wondered where Chicago's street names come from? Roz Varon investigates in "7 on the Streets." ABC7 Eyewitness News' Facebook fans picked some streets with unusual stories behind them.

We have ghosts, politics and patronage. We'll start with a request from ABC7 Facebook Fan Bill Keating about the origin of Damen Avenue.

Damen Avenue, at 2000 west, was originally known as Robey Street. It was named after James Robey, a farmer and real estate developer. In the mid 1800's, Father Arnold Damen, a Jesuit priest, founded Holy Family Church and St. Ignatius High School and College, which is now Loyola University.

"In 1871, we know we have the Chicago fire that started just east of Holy Family Parish. At the time, Father Damen was out of town in Brooklyn. So Father Damen prayed for the church to be saved and promised that he would light candles in remembrance of Our Lady of Perpetual Health. The building was saved," said Katie Macia of the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society.

To this day, the parish keeps seven candles, albeit electric, near the alter to fulfill Father Damen's promise.

There are many tales about Holy Family being haunted. There have been rumors of strange happenings around the church and sightings of Father Damen. But the biggest story revolves around two of the statues on the alter.

"One evening, Father Damen was woken up from a sound sleep by two boys knocking on his door. They told him their mother was very sick and she wanted him to come and bless them," said Sharon Van Den Hende, an administrative assistant at Holy Family Parish.

The priest fulfilled the request, letting the tearful woman know it came from her sons.

"She started crying even harder because her sons had been deceased for some time," Van Den Hende said.

Not too far from Holy Family is Halsted Street. ABC7 Facebook Fan Mary Scott asked about its origins. It began as 1st Street and then became Dyer Street, after abolitionist Charles Dyer.

"Halsted Street is named for William and Caleb Halsted, who are actually not Chicagoans at all. They visited Chicago once! They were business partners with the first mayor of the city, William Ogden," Chicago History Museum Historian Peter Alter said.

Ogden made quite a bit of money off property that the Halsted brothers foreclosed on. William Ogden has his street as well. He only served one term as mayor, by choice.

He did much more in Chicago's early years. He designed the first swing bridge over the Chicago River, dug a channel to straighten the north branch of the river and created Goose Island. He also built Chicago's first railroad, becoming president of Union Pacific.

A native New Yorker, Ogden moved back east in his later years, while keeping a residence in Chicago. He was in New York in 1871 when the Great Fire broke out. He returned to Chicago the next day to find everything he owned was lost.

Next week, we'll be talking about another street with ties to the Great Chicago Fire!

Chicago History Museum
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