Monday, June 27, 2011

Did You Know, Chicago? - The Streets of Chicago

As a reverse commuter, I often find myself winding along the city streets in an effort to avoid massive traffic jams. I have become very curious about Chicago streets, and, thus, the streets are the topic for this week's 'Did You Know, Chicago?'.

Every wonder why, if Chicago is on the grid system, we have those really random and annoying angled streets? These streets were originally Native American trails, established even before this place was called Chicago. Clark Street follows part of the old Native American Green Bay trail. Lincoln Avenue was called Little Fort Road and was founded because it ran on a ridge over the giant marsh that used to be Chicago.

Lake Shore Drive is such a strange invention. Who shoves a three-lane freeway on the edge of a giant lake? Well, it was originally just supposed to be a cute lakefront path for the carriages of Chicago's high society, but when the auto age came around someone thought it was a good idea to put cars on it. The Drive has been extended and realigned a ton of times, but it's still a giant mess.

The triangular-shaped intersection of Ashland Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue and Divsion Street forms the Polonia Triangle, also known as the Polish Triangle. This used to be the center of Chicago's enormous Polish community. (Another fun fact: Chicago is home to the largest Polish community outside of Warsaw.)

Western Avenue is the longest street in Chicago, and one of the longest in the country. It's also one of the most dangerous streets for bicyclists.

In my opinion, Halsted is one of the most diverse streets in the city. From north to south you have Boystown, old Cabrini Green, Goose Island, Greek Town, Hull House, fancy West Loop restaurants, Taylor Street/Little Italy, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Englewood and all the way to Chicago Heights.  

Hope you weren't on Lake Shore during the Snowpocalypse! I was! Fortunately I got of Lake Shore about 20 minutes before they closed it down and made people abandon their cars.


  1. First, thank GAWD you got out before the collapse of LSD.....and i am loving the CHI-town trivia!!! It does make it easy to learn streets when new to living here, as I was a cpl yrs ago....ANd AShland suck for bikers too (between Milw/Madison - I ride over to damen to get south past there!)

  2. I agree w/ Taylor, these posts about Chicago trivia are so fun! I agree Western is basically a biker's death wish, and Ashland too. I'm jsut starting to ride around the city, but I go out of my way to avoid those streets! Interesting about how Lake Shore Drive started out, too.

  3. The angled streets drive me crazy! They confuse me and freak me out!
    But the grid system is super easy to use, and I didn't get lost (much) when I moved here in 2008.