7 on the Streets: Chicago's North Side

Roz Varon Image
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
7 on the Streets Chicago's North Side
Have you ever wondered where all of those Chicago street names came from? Roz Varon takes a closer look in 7 on the Streets.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Have you ever wondered where all of those Chicago street names came from? Roz Varon takes a closer look in "7 on the Streets."

When Chicago was incorporated in 1837, it was 10 square miles and a handful of streets. Today, the city has over 4,000 miles of streets with more than 2,500 different names - and that includes numbers and letters! As the City of Chicago expanded, so did the number of streets.

Touhy Avenue, or Illinois 72, received its name because it is 7200 blocks north of Madison Street, beginning at Lake Michigan. It is a major thoroughfare through the city - especially well-known in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood - and in the northwest suburbs.

Sahelit Bahru, who lives in Chicago, said Touhy sounded like a Native American name to her.

It's actually Irish, named after businessman Patrick L. Touhy. He moved to Chicago in 1864. The next year he married Catherine Rogers, daughter of the landowner Phillip Rogers. Touhy managed and then sold the land to a group of businessmen.

"We found throughout our history that developers' names often survive and we may not know who they are. Touhy was one of those developers who helped develop Rogers Park," said Peter Alter, an archivist at the Chicago History Museum.

Chicagoan Kim Majarucon thinks Diversey Avenue got its name from someone important.

Michael Diversey was a German immigrant, a brewer, an alderman and a real estate developer.

"One of the interesting things about Diversey is that we actually spell his last name differently than he did! Looking at his tomb stone, there was no "e" before the "y" at the end," Alter said.

Michael Gomez, who also lives in Chicago, said jokingly that Pulaski Road must have been called "Pre-Pulaski" before the street got the name it has today.

In 1913, 40th Street became Crawford, after Peter Crawford, a real estate developer in Cicero Township.

"In 1933, with a growing Polish immigrant population, there is an effort to change the name from Crawford to Pulaski. Casimir Pulaski is a revolutionary war hero who was actually a Polish cavalry leader," Alter said.

There was a great resistance among residents and business owners to change the name, taking it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, not once, but twice. It finally became official in 1952!.

If you don't know how Chicago Avenue got its name - you should.

"I'm guessing maybe after the Indians, Chicago Tribe?" Chicagoan Andrew Lyon said.

"Obviously it's named for our fair city. But also it's named after what we believed to be a variety of wild leek or wild onion or garlic that grew along the banks of the Chicago River," Alter said.

Chicago, derived from the Native American Indian name Checagou. Those wild leeks, also known as ramps, with the Latin name allium tricoccum, still grows in Chicago area forest preserves.


Chicago History Museum

Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society

University of Illinois at Chicago Library, Special Collection