By John Rice
Last week, we ran a story about how the Goelitz family paved the streets of our town. But did you ever notice how cool the street names are in Forest Park? I can't think of a community where they're more interesting.
Most suburbs go for the generic: tree names, snobby British names, or presidents' names. Some towns even resort to numbering their streets. We have a few of those in the south end.
Most of our street names, though, reflect the history of our town. It's rare to have a street bearing a first name but we have Ferdinand Avenue, honoring the founder of Forest Park, Ferdinand Haase. We also have Hannah Avenue and Thomas Avenue. It's nice being on a first-name basis with them but does anyone know their last names?
We also have streets named for prominent families. Troost Avenue celebrates the family that is still shaping granite into headstones. Bergman Court refers to the Bergman Dairy that used to occupy that location. Dunlop and Lathrop were real estate developers, but does anyone know who Lehmer, Burkhardt and Greenburg were? We also honored a non-pillar of the community. Little Yuba Street is named for a street peddler named Yubansky.
My favorite street names are the ones tracing the route of the Chicago & Galena Railroad. Imagine a train chugging west out of town and making the following stops: Elgin, Marengo, Belvidere, Rockford and Dixon. The end of the line is Beloit.
The railroad didn't go as far as Madison, Wisconsin; that street was named for President James Madison. Many of our east-west streets are named for presidents and are extensions of Chicago streets: Washington, Van Buren, Taylor, Adams, Fillmore — wait, let me catch my breath — Harrison, Roosevelt and Madison. We also honor non-presidents, Wilcox, Warren, Cermak and Randolph. Some of these streets are on their last legs when they reach Forest Park. In fact, Jackson Boulevard just curls up and dies.
Bordering the village on the east and west are two street names that say it all: Harlem was the original name of Forest Park and Desplaines is what the French explorers called this region (Des Plaines, the plains). Then we have our curving streets in the north end, like Circle Avenue (actually semi-circle), that used to conform to railroad right-of-ways.
Not only do we have great names, we have some quaint brick streets. Fillmore is under repair, as we speak. Brick streets are better looking and more durable than asphalt streets. They provide a permeable surface that absorbs water. They also slow down speeders. After the bricks are positioned, the street doesn't require maintenance for 50 years.
But getting back to names, does anyone know who Brown Street was named after?
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.