"K" Streets Conundrums (Not the K-Car. K-Streets)

"K" Streets Conundrums (Not the K-Car. K-Streets)

Most everyone who grew up within the city of Chicago or its nearby peripheries are aware of the city's naming convention for its north-south streets that emanate west of Pulaski Road. For those who aren't, it's (or at least tries to be) alphabetically-ordered.

For example: "Neva, Nottingham, Nordica, Sayre, Newland...," et cetera. These streets you just read are situated towards Harlem Avenue, where (most of them) are titled with names starting with the letter "N."

Thus naturally, the sequence of north-south Chicago streets should begin at its easternmost point with the letter "A," correct?

Incorrect; this sequence of alphabetically-named streets begins at Pulaski Road, almost four miles west of Lake Shore Drive. Also, the street names emanating west of Pulaski start with the letter "K," and advance all the way to "P" where Chicago meets Norridge and Elmwood Park at its westernmost residential boundaries.

To make matters more confusing, Chicago's Southeast Side has north-south streets that start with (only) the letter "A" (Avenue A, Avenue B, etc.) and extend eastward to the state line with "O."

So why start alphabetically-naming streets starting at Pulaski Road with the letter "K"? Apparently in 1913, a proposal to Chicago's planning commission was approved for a new street-naming system. Pulaski Road was found to be exactly 11 miles west of the Indiana state line, and thus all streets west of Pulaski would be named starting with the 11th letter of the American alphabet: K.

At the time, residential development was flourishing in a radius extending north, northwest, and southwest from the Loop. Many streets, such as Racine, Southport, etc., were already named. Development west of Pulaski (which, for you history buffs, was once named Crawford Avenue), was just starting to increase with new streets needing to be named.

Thus, Chicagoans will enter "K-Town" the moment they travel west of Pulaski Road (maybe even in a K-Car for you Malaise-Era automotive buffs): Keystone, Karlov, Kedvale, Keeler, Tripp (one of many non-conforming streets), Kildare, Kolin, Kostner, Kilbourn, Kolmar, et cetera. And no, this is not the MTV "K-Town," but a nickname locals give to the area they live in that contains streets named with the letter "K."

Old Irving Park is situated right in the middle of the alphabetical street-naming action, with Pulaski passing through its virtual center. The area's north-south streets appear to follow the usual naming convention, until the keen-eyed Chicagoan might notice several "K" streets are missing.

How can streets go missing in a city? Yet it becomes clear when comparing Old Irving Park to adjacent "K-Town" neighborhoods, it's missing several avenues, including Komesky, Kolin, and Karlov. There is also a mysterious Lowell Avenue that should be where Kolin is located in other "K-Towns."

We can discover at least one very evident explanation for the missing "K" streets of Old Irving Park by simply looking at a map of Chicago streets. When comparing Old Irving Park's north-south streets to, for example, Archer Heights of the city's southwest side, it's glaringly evident that not only does Old Irving Park contain fewer streets, but individual homes situated within that area have larger property lots than of areas with the full amount of "K" streets.

Chicago's allotted measurements of the majority of its individual "Standard Lots" date back to the 19th Century; set at 24 x 125. This is generally true for most of the City and some of its neighboring suburbs.  However, Old Irving Park was developed initially as a separate sub-division of the city in the late 19th century (a topic that will be explored here later). Thus, it was developed with lots that are nearly twice as large as the Standard Chicago Lot to attract families and larger house developments of the day.

How does a 19th century developer create larger home lots? Easy; take out some streets! Thus explains one of the conundrums of the "K" streets; as for mysterious Lowell taking the place of Kolin Avenue, that is still open for resolution.

The "missing" streets do not detract from Old Irving Park, and actually help complete the area.  This upcoming spring, take a walk around Old Irving Park's "K-Town," and you'll see the beautiful homes and yards created by the elimination of "K" streets.




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