Saturday, July 21, 2018

There’s always an issue we can quarrel over with regards to city street names

Aldermen this week signed off on the idea of making the street name “Congress Parkway” as obsolete as the one-time “South Park Way” that most of us now merely think of as Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive (that is, when we think of it at all).
Soon to be Wells and Wells? Or Ida and Wells?
For that strip of a few blocks of street at the southern edge of the Loop will now bear the name of Ida B. Wells, the one-time activist whose cause was to make people think of lynching as a crime – rather than justice being carried out.

BUT JUST AS some people got all worked up and fought it out when plans to turn Balbo Drive into Wells Parkway were proposed (seeing it as a slur against people of Italian ethnic origins), I’m sure even this attempt at political compromise can cause a brawl.

For Chicago already has a Wells Street, and it intersects with the soon-to-be former Congress Parkway. Meaning we will soon have an intersection of Wells and Wells. And I don't mean one of those brown "honorary" street designations. I'm talking about a full-on renaming; green street sign and all!

Mass confusion? I’d hope not! Even though one alderman has suggested we ought to refer to the former Congress Parkway as “Ida Drive” to eliminate all doubt.

Personally, I’d like to think the people of Chicago are intelligent enough to be able to tell the difference between a north/south running street and an east/west running one – particularly since the latter will only exist for a few blocks. Besides, I also think it will be an interesting quirk to have the Wells and Wells intersection. It will be something that the kind of Chicagoans who take great interest in the city’s historical oddities will take great pride in.
IDA B.: Anti-lynching activist, suffragette

WE’LL ENJOY THE confused look that out-of-towners will get on their faces at the very concept that two intersecting streets can have similar names. We’ll even start using it as a test, of sorts, to be able to figure out who is a real Chicagoan – and who is just a pretender from a place like Schaumburg.

Maybe we can even argue it out over which Wells has greater merits to have a street named for them. For Ida B. is the woman who was a reporter-type person back in the days when black women were supposed to be nothing more than domestics.

While William Wells was a U.S. Army captain assigned to the early 19th Century military base Fort Dearborn (where Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River now intersect) and who died in the Aug. 15, 1812 fight with Potawatomi Indians.
WILLIAM: Indian fighter in pre-Chicago days

You just know it’s a matter of time before someone suggests that William is unworthy (in today’s day and age) of having his name at the same intersection as Ida B.

ALTHOUGH IT SHOULD be noted he was of the Miami Indian tribe and fought with them during the Indian wars, before eventually becoming an Indian agent with the developing United States. Meaning this could become a brawl with American Indian activists if anyone seriously tried to remove the “Wells” name from Wells Street.

All the more reason the idea of a Wells and Wells intersection would work in Chicago – because it would (unintentionally) wind up showing the way so many groups have combined into the one entity we now know of as the Second City (which is really third and may someday soon become Number Four).

Of course, we could always think that streets being named for people creates too much cause for conflict and offense to be taken by somebody. Which is why a part of me always thought the South Side bore the most sense in Chicago, with all the streets from downtown all the way south to the Hegewisch neighborhood bearing numbers.

Is anyone up for renaming Wells Street “Fifth Avenue” – the name it had between 1870 and 1912 because some thought William’s reputation would be besmirched by having his name on a street that was, at the time, the city’s “red light” district.


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