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Chicago's Street-Grid System Turns 100

By Staff in News on Sep 3, 2009 4:20PM

Map of Chicago, circa 1901, courtesy of the University of Texas and via Unburying The Lead
The street-grid system in Chicago celebrated its 100th anniversary this week, a venture that began on Sept. 1, 1909 at the intersection of State and Madison and formed the basis for a new system that changed every address in the city and even carried over into several Chicagoland suburbs.

The map of the city was originally based off of the Chicago River; however its winding shape led to inconsistent building numbers, lack of directions (i.e., West or North) on street names, and duplicate street names, such as Lincoln Avenue and Lincoln Place. For a city already with a population of 300,000 at the turn of the century, Chicago was in desperate need of a makeover.

Enter: Edward P. Brennan, a facilities manager for a Chicago music company, who lobbied to change the names of streets and the way they were numbered. His hard work paid off in June 1908, when the Chicago City Council approved the grid system and made it effective the following year.

Dennis McClendon, who draws maps for the CTA, spoke about Chicago’s grid in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago is one of the most emulated kind of systems for that fact that its [grid system] fits the city's character so well,” said McClendon. “Chicago really is the city as a sheet of graph paper.”

Post by Anna Deem