Get streetwise about the New Eastside: A look back at the story of our streets

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

 

City streets can reveal a lot about a neighborhood’s history, and the streets in New Eastside are no exception.

Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names, a book by Don Hayner and Tom McNamee, offers a peek into the histories of street names in Chicago. Some are straightforward, while others are more colorful.

 

South Water Street

South Water Street, according to Streetwise Chicago, was at one time located along the river, where Wacker Drive is today. East South Water Street now runs east to west from North Harbor Drive, eventually merging with Wacker Drive.

The old South Water Street, according to Streetwise, was at one time the location of Chicago’s major market place, with numerous produce stalls. The produce market was relocated to 14th and Morgan in the 1920s when Wacker Drive was built.

 

Wacker Drive

According to Streetwise Chicago, Wacker Drive is named after Charles H. Wacker (1856–1929). He was a brewer, the chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission and director of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Wacker helped convince the city to preserve its lakefront and was involved in the development of Burnham and Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, which produced notable buildings such as the Field Museum and Union Station.

 

Stetson Avenue

Stetson Avenue, which runs north to south from East Wacker Drive to East Randolph Street,  along the eastern side of Prudential Plaza, is named after wealthy businessman Eugene W. Stetson (1882–1959).cording to Streetwise Chicago. Stetson began his professional life in Macon, Georgia, where he earned $40 a month as a bank clerk. He eventually rose to chairman of the executive committee of the Illinois Central Railroad and was a director of the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Stetson Avenue was built and named for him in 1955.

Moving the South Water Street Market and turning the street into a double-deck drive was Wacker’s idea.

 

Beaubien Court

North Beaubien Court runs north to south between East Lake Street and East Randolph Street, between Prudential Plaza and Michigan Avenue. It’s a short street with a long history behind its name.

 

According to an April 2017 DNAinfo story, Chicago’s second non-Native settler was a man named Jean Baptiste Beaubien — not to be confused with Chicago’s first non-Native settler, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. Beaubien was born in Detroit and came to Chicago in 1804, left in 1812 after the battle of Fort Dearborn, and came back around 1817. He was an agent for the American Fur Company and his house was built where the Chicago Cultural Center now stands. Elections were held at his house and at one time he was the wealthiest man in the city.

But there was another, younger Beaubien — Mark, Jean Baptiste’s brother — and Streetwise Chicago makes clear both brothers were noteworthy in their own way. Mark Beaubien came to Chicago and opened the Sauganash Hotel in 1826 at the corner of Lake and Wacker.

“Beaubien would sit on his hotel’s front porch, surrounded by a few or more of his 23 children and shoot ducks on the Chicago River,” Streetwise reports. The younger Beaubien was also a ferryman, a fur trader, a heavy drinker and a “truly wicked fiddle player.”

The street is named for one — or both — of the Beaubien brothers.

 

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