Posts Tagged 'streets'

The “Two Lake Streets” Problem

Lake Street moves west through the city’s West Side at a slight northwest angle. By Laramie Avenue it is running next to the Metra U-P West embankment.  At 5500-west, Lake Street ducks under the railroad tracks, before continuing its westward journey.

Meanwhile, a local street continues to run west, next to the tracks. This street was known as Morgan Avenue when the area was part of the independent Village of Austin.  But sometime after Chicago annexed Austin in 1899, Morgan Avenue became Lake Street.

That’s right. Now you had the arterial Lake Street north of the tracks, and another local Lake Street south of the tracks.  People in the neighborhood called the two streets Lake North and Lake South.

Lake Street North and Lake Street South

Address numbers weren’t a problem. Lake North had parks along the railroad tracks on its south side.  Any buildings were on the north side of the street—even numbers. Lake South had ground-level ‘L’ tracks and the railroad on its north side, so all buildings were on the south side of the street—odd numbers.

In effect, there was only one Lake Street here, a very wide Lake Street with parks and a railroad embankment and ‘L’ tracks in the middle between its two roadways.  Never mind that those two separate roadways each had two-way traffic. 

Lake Street North—even address numbers

Figuring out the whole Lake Street situation was tricky if you weren’t from the neighborhood. Then, in 1964, 37th Ward alderman Paul Corcoran died. 

Corcoran was no ordinary politician. He was a local hero, the man who’d gotten the ground-level ‘L’ tracks moved onto the railroad embankment. Three months after the alderman’s death, the Chicago City Council changed the name of Lake South to Corcoran Place.

Still, some of the property owners on Lake South didn’t like the new name. No disrespect intended for Alderman Corcoran. “Lake Street” simply sounded more business-friendly. The “Corcoran Place” street signs were put in storage, to await further developments.

Lake Street South/Corcoran Place—odd address numbers

A year passed. Finally, a compromise was reached.  Only the diagonal-parking strip that replaced the ground-level ‘L’ would become Corcoran Place.  The rest of Lake South would remain Lake Street.

Well into the 1970s, the Austin National Bank continued to list its address as 5645 West Lake Street.  Yet as time has gone by, the Corcoran Place name has become accepted.  There’s even a Corcoran Grocery. So perhaps the “Two Lake Streets” problem has finally been resolved.

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