Chicago Street Numbering System
Prior to 1909 the present street numbering system was very haphazard and based on the divisions of the city as defined by the Chicago River and the lake shore. The current numbering system was devised by Edward P. Brennan and adopted by the City Council in 1909. The basis of the numbering system was to divide numbers North and South from Madison Street and those East and West from State Street. The changes in the numbering system were implemented in two phases: most addresses outside of the central district were changed in September, 1909, and changes in the central business district took place in April, 1911.
The homeowners had to inform the businesses with which they corresponded of the changes so they sent out postcards. Some of these postcards were humorous and suggested that the “powers that be” saw fit to change the numbering system. However, everyone who had ever tried to get around early Chicago would agree that the new numbering system was very helpful. Because although the 1830 Thompson plat system in place, the numbers ran differently in the three divisions of the city.
One of the other important issues that Brennan championed was the elimination of duplicate street names and resulted in the changing of street names for the sake of consistency. The current practice of giving honorary street names for people who have made a contribution to the city is a way of maintaining the consistency of street names.
What is the difference between the designation of street or avenue? Is there any consistency?
What are some of the street names that have been changed over the years?
How does the city council determine the names of the streets?
Who are some of the people who have honorary street names?
How can you tell how far you have traveled based on the street numbers?

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