Ever notice how cool our street names are in Forest Park? Besides Chicago, I can’t think of a community that has more interesting street names. Most suburbs have generic street signs: tree names, “classy” sounding British names, or president’s names. Some towns even resort to numbering their streets. Do you know the most popular street name in America? That’s right, Second Street.
Forest Park, though, has street names that reflect the very history of our town. For example, it’s rare to have a street sign bearing a person’s first name. Here in Forest Park we have Ferdinand Avenue, named for the founder of Forest Park, Ferdinand Haase. We also have Thomas Avenue and Hannah Avenue. Does anyone remember their last names?
We also have streets named for prominent families: Troost Avenue celebrates the family that is still carving granite into headstones. Bergman Court refers to the Bergman Dairy that used to occupy that location. I know Dunlop and Lathrop were local developers but does anyone know whom Lehmer, Burchard, and Greenburg were? Forest Park also honored a non-pillar of the community. Little Yuba Street was named for a street peddler named Yubansky.
My favorite street names are the ones tracing the route of the Chicago & Galena Railroad. Forest Park was founded as a railroad junction, so imagine a train chugging west out of town and making the following stops: Elgin, Marengo, Belvidere, Rockford and Dixon. There was also a stop at Beloit, Wisconsin. Madison, though, wasn’t named for a stop in Wisconsin’s state capitol. It celebrates President James Madison, whose portrait can be found on the $5000 bill. No, I haven’t seen one either.
Many of our east-west streets like Madison are extensions of Chicago streets: Wilcox, Warren, Washington, Van Buren, Taylor ?” wait, let me catch my breath ?” Adams, Cermak, Fillmore, Harrison 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 Des Plaines was what the French explorers called this region.
Then we have our unique curving streets in the north end, like Circle Avenue, that used to conform to railroad right-of-ways. By the way, I’ve heard the houses of the original railroad workers are still standing in Forest Park. Is this true?
Not only do we have great street names, we have some quaint brick streets. I hear we’re going to repair our historic streets. Wilmette is also undertaking a street repair program. Residents there can vote to uncover and restore the paving bricks, or fix the asphalt. If 60% or more on a block vote to have the brick surface restored, the village complies.
Brick streets are better looking and more durable than asphalt streets. They also slow down speeders. After the bricks are placed in position, the street doesn’t require any maintenance for the next fifty years. Is it possible we could have a Wilmette-like street repair program in Forest Park? By the way, does anyone know who Brown Street was named after?