Pulaski Road, aka Crawford Avenue

Today Cook County celebrates Pulaski Day.  Establishing this holiday for a little-known historical figure was controversial.  But that was nothing compared to the conflict over naming a Chicago street after Pulaski.  Settling that argument took 19 years.

In the summer of 1933 a Polish group asked Mayor Edward J. Kelly to rename Crawford Avenue for General Casimir Pulaski.  Kelly agreed.  Pulaski had been a hero of the American Revolution.  Besides, the Poles were the city’s largest ethnic voting bloc.

"Pulaski at Savannah"

“Pulaski at Savannah”

As it turned out, many people were against the change.  The street had been named for pioneer settler Peter Crawford.  His family liked the existing name.  So did the Chicago Historical Society.  So did the store owners along Crawford, who would have to adjust their advertising—a few businesses, like the Madison-Crawford Restaurant, might even have to change their own names.

In December 1933 the City Council approved the change to Pulaski.  The next month a group of Crawford businessmen got an injunction to halt the action.  But in 1934 an appellate court overturned the injunction.  The city was told to start putting up the new street signs.

The Crawford group took its case to the State Legislature.  In 1937 a new Illinois law was passed—if 60% of the property owners on a street signed a petition to change a street name, the street name had to be changed.  Now the Crawfords could start gathering signatures to get the old name restored.

One street, two names---Crawford (east side, Flossmoor), Pulaski (west side, Country Club Hills)

One street, two names—It’s Crawford Avenue on the east side in Flossmoor, but it’s Pulaski Road on the west side in Country Club Hills

The Pulaskis fought back.  They started their own petition drive to change Haussen Court to Crawford Avenue.  If they could file their petition first, the Pulaski name would have to stay.  After all, Chicago couldn’t have two streets named Crawford Avenue.

The battle dragged on.  “Pulaski Road” signs kept disappearing.  A streetcar conductor who announced “Crawford Avenue” was slugged by a Polish passenger.  World War II came and went.  Then, in 1951, the Crawfords got the number of signatures they needed.

The matter went to the Superior Court—and the judge ordered the street changed back to Crawford!  The Pulaskis appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.  Finally, in November 1952, that court ruled the 1937 petition law unconstitutional.  Once and for all, Pulaski Road became official.

Official in Chicago, that is.  In many of the suburbs, the street is still called Crawford Avenue.

—30—

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