The Names They Are a Changin’

A lot of cities I’ve lived in (and I’ve lived in a lot of cities) have changed the names of their streets over time.  I’ve always been impressed that Chicago hangs on to its street names longer than most of the other places I’ve lived.  Perhaps its because in Chicago an “Honorary” street name sign can be added to a block or two without having to change the street’s official name.

But last week while wandering around I stumbled across two deprecated street names still living on old buildings.

The first was on the block with Blue Chicago.  The peeling paint proclaimed the address as “536 Heritage Place.”  Was Clark Street once known as Heritage Place?  I checked the Chicago Tribune archive and found no reference to Heritage Place.  I asked the Municipal Reference Team at the Chicago Public Library (your tax dollars at work!) and got this response:

As far as we can tell Clark Street has never had another name. Clarke [sic] street was shown on the original plat maps of Chicago. See the Encyclopedia of Chicago at:

Prior to the Great Fire of 1871 Clarke Street had been extended north and south to at least the five hundred numbers. Since most or all of the buildings on Clark were burned during the fire, your building would have to been more recent, and definitley been built on Clark.

See for example:

Furthermore we are unable to find any evidence of any street named “Heritage”

I’ll do a little more research on this, but if anyone can explain this, please leave a comment below.

The second location was up near the Lincoln Park Zoo.  The building at 2100 North Lincoln Park West has carved on its south side “Garfield Avenue” indicating that the street we now call Dickens once bore the name of a president, not a scribe.

It happened around 1934.  In that year, the City Club of Chicago came up with a list of 41 street names it considered confusing, duplicative, or redundant.  One of them was Garfield Avenue.  The City Club proposed changing Garfield Avenue to Dickens because of confusion with Garfield Boulevard in the Garfield Park section of Chicago.

Not surprisingly, there were Chicago Aldermen against the change.  Alderman Caughlin was quoted in the July 27th, 1934 edition of the Chicago Tribune as saying, “If a dozen streets named Lincoln were in Chicago… I wouldn’t favor a change in any of them.”

Other streets that got their names changed include Grove Avenue, which became South Clark Street; Center Street, which became Armitage Avenue; and Austin Avenue which became what we now know as Hubbard Street.

That’s an interesting point because Hubbard Street is what lent its name to the series of freeway underpasses known as “Hubbard’s Cave.”  You can read the article we wrote last month about the history of Hubbard’s Cave.  And by coincidence, just today while strolling along Wacker Drive I cam across this plaque noting the location of “Hubbard’s Folly:”

So, who the heck was Hubbard?

He was Gurdon S. Hubbard (I’ve also seen it written “Gordon S. Hubbard”), the owner of Hubabrd & Company, who was a pioneering businessman.  And by “pioneering” I mean he opened shop in Chicago back when there wasn’t much here but Indians, fur trappers, and wild onions.  His specialty was meat packing and this hog butcher to America went out of business around the time Philip Armour left the California gold fields for Chicago and became “Hog Butcher to the World.”

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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