Edgeville Buzz

Broadway Is More Than A Grand Edgewater Street- Or Is It Avenue?

Edgewater has a rich history and its main thoroughfares such as Broadway have an equally interesting past. There is always something to learn and it seems as though Broadway has a few things to teach us.

Let’s start with the most important fact about Broadway, it is neither an avenue nor a street. It is the only Chicago street without a suffix. This mistake has been made by many including the City of Chicago whose error can be seen everyday in plain site at the corner of Broadway and Catalpa.

The street sign on that corner reads “Broadway Ave.” Every other sign along the road reads properly with no suffix added. So don’t feel bad if you made the blunder too, you are not alone.

To try to explain this, let’s go to the beginning? Before the road was Broadway, it was named Evanston Avenue. It was an important connection for those traveling between Chicago and its northern neighbor Evanston. It cut through woodland areas that would eventually become neighborhoods such as Edgewater and Uptown. The land on which Evanston Ave. was built supplied a more stable ground compared to the swampier soil located east of the road towards the lakefront.

As roads such as Evanston Ave. became increasingly traveled, the woods that they sliced through made way to what is now the far north lakefront neighborhoods of Chicago. Developers saw potential in the land and built communities which catered mostly to well-off Chicago families.

In order to service these new residents, businesses started to quickly pop up along Evanston Ave. In 1913, those merchants pushed to have the street’s name changed along with 466 other street names that year. Because Uptown and Edgewater were evolving into Chicago’s version of New York City’s Great White Way, they chose to rename the street Broadway to reflect the new opulent area.

NYC’s Broadway too has no suffix. Originally the Wickquasgeck Trail, Dutch settlers needed to widen the Mahattan Island street to make room for horse-drawn traffic in the mid-1600s. After completion, they renamed the street in Dutch as Bredeweg or Broad Way in English. Like the Dutch word, Broad Way was likely compounded over time and became Broadway.

Though some may think this is all overkill, others may find the importance of accurately naming a street that has helped build the communities we love. So for those who believe Broadway deserves due props, the street is a technically a Way, however compounded with no suffix.

 


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