Archive for the 'GENERAL' Category

Lake Shore Drive, Named and Renamed

Lake Shore Drive may soon be renamed to honor Chicago’s founder, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. It’s often forgotten that a suggestion to rename the drive north of the river was floated in 1969, shortly after the first Moon landing. If that proposal has gone through, we would now be talking about Apollo XI Drive.

The original Lake Shore Drive was laid out in the horse-carriage 1860s as a promenade along the eastern edge of Lincoln Park. It was barely two miles long. Still, trotting along next to the blue waters of Lake Michigan on a summer afternoon was an exhilarating experience, and the drive was immediately popular. Newspaper accounts of the era tell of citizens’ groups lobbying to get the roadway extended all the way north to Evanston.

1896—Lake Shore Drive @ Division Street

Potter Palmer began the real transformation of Lake Shore Drive. In 1885 he built a mansion at 1350 North Lake Shore Drive, just south of the park. Palmer’s action touched off a migration of millionaires from Prairie Avenue to the Near North Side.  The Lake Shore Drive mystique was established. 

Americans are an egalitarian breed. We can also be snobs. Over the course of the decades, the drive has given Chicagoans a way to satisfy both impulses. They simply change their street names to Lake Shore Drive.

Oak Street is located at 1000 north. In Potter Palmer’s time, it was the southern terminus of Lake Shore Drive. When the drive was extended further south, the road had to curve into an east-west section for a couple of blocks, before resuming its southward route along the lakefront. Instead of being part of Oak Street, the local east-west street here is called East Lake Shore Drive.

1952—Lake Shore Drive @ North Avenue

Until the 1930s Sheridan Road was the name on western boundary street of Lincoln Park, between 3200 and 3900 north. But then Lake Shore Drive was extended north of Belmont Avenue. Now when you head north up Sheridan and cross Belmont, you are traveling next to the express lanes of the Lake Shore Drive’s Outer Drive, and your local street suddenly becomes part of Lake Shore Drive. At 3900 north, Sheridan turns left into an east-west street, and resumes with its own name

In 1929 a new parkway was constructed along the southern lakefront. This road was named Leif Erickson Drive, after the Viking explorer. By 1946 local politicians had evidently decided that the Swedish voting bloc was too small to worry about, so Leif Erickson Drive was changed to—wait, don’t tell me—Lake Shore Drive.

1957—Lake Shore Drive @ Oakenwald Boulevard

Until 2013, Lake Shore Drive ended at 67th Street. South of 67th, traffic on the drive filtered onto a local arterial street named South Shore Drive. Then a new road was opened through the site of the old U.S. Steel South Works, between 79th and 92nd Streets, to carry U.S. 41 traffic. There were proposals to name the road after Harold Washington, onetime South Side congressman and Mayor of Chicago. 

The road through South Works was not connected to the existing Lake Shore Drive, and most of it was a few blocks inland from the lakefront. The city named it Lake Shore Drive, anyway. The idea was that the magic name would spur development in the area, which would ultimately translate into more tax revenue for government coffers.

2020—Lake Shore Drive @ 89th Street

As I understand the current proposal, the main section of the drive, from Hollywood Avenue to 67th Street, would be renamed. The isolated stretch through the onetime South Works—with its potentially lucrative tax base—would still be known as Lake Shore Drive.

Or maybe that road will become Apollo XI Drive.

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