What's in a Name?

Vol. II No. 3 - SPRING 1990

Heard any good stories lately? There are dozens in Edgewater that are as close as the street on which you live.

How Edgewater streets got their names makes a fascinating historical anthology. The following excerpts are taken from the 1989 book “Street Wise” by Don Hayner and Tom McNamee.

BALMORAL - 5400 North from 1000 to 8364 West:
John L. Cochran, real estate developer of Scottish descent, came to Chicago from Philadelphia in 1881. He named many streets in his Edgewater community for places and things in his own personal background. He named this street for Balmoral Castle, a favorite residence of Queen Victoria in Scotland.
BERWYN - 5300 North from 916 to 8758 West:
Cochran named this street and several others for stations along the Main Line out of his hometown of Philadelphia. Berwyn is one of those streets, as is Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Wayne and Devon Avenues.
GREGORY - 5530 North from 1400 to 8758 West.
Named for St. Gregory’s Church, which is located on this street at the northeast corner of Paulina Avenue.
MAGNOLIA - 1232 West from 1400 to 6474 North:
This street memorializes a Chicago tugboat captained by Joseph Gilson. Gilson’s bravery stood out among the tugboat captains in Chicago “who were known and noted for their skill and courage all over the U.S.” He was the “bravest of the brave” and was so in love with danger that he found it difficult to get men to work with him. Gilson’s story and that of his boat, the Magnolia, are told in a pamphlet entitled “The History of the Chicago Fire.” When the fire began on October 8, 1871, Gilson readied his tug to save his household belongings. But when he saw burning ships on the river and people stranded along the lakefront, he hurried to save their lives. “Indifferent to the danger,” he lassoed a burning vessel that was headed toward a pier crowded with people and tugged it out of harm’s way. He hauled boats full of people out to the safety of the lake and he refused all offers of money for his service. As flaming warehouses and burning ships collapsed into the water, the Magnolia was the last to leave the mouth of the river.

(To be continued in future issues)