Broken Roads, Boulevards & No Roads At All

After annexing so many towns through the years with roads of the same name — there were at least 7 Lincolns at one time, according to the Chicago History Museum — Chicago set to the task to eliminate the duplicates so that people would stop getting lost. Then, for consistency sake, the city gave one official name to every road as it traveled throughout the city and into the suburbs, making it easy for drivers at practically any location to recognize street names and know where they are. Their prefaces further indicate whether they are on the south, north, east or west sides.

In sticking to the concept of keeping the same name for streets that traversed at the same geographical coordinates, Chicago gave no heed to whether the roadbeds had been cut in half by a cemetery or new highway only to pick up again on the other side. Thus arose the phenomenon of “broken roads,” in which all pieces of a road at the same geolocational place on the grid retained the same name as if they were contiguous. Like skipping a flat stone over a pond, they bounce from here to there even if they’d never been linked in the first place but had only existed as “paper” roads drawn on a map that were never built.

Gladstone Park has more than its share of broken roads. Right within its boundaries, tangled streets and mangled land tracts break smaller roads apart, throwing isolated sections into other parts of the neighborhood blocks apart. N. Moody, for example, exists in the 5600, 5700, and 5800 blocks in the southern section of the community until it gets cut off by the triangular tracts of land between the merging diagonals of N. Milwaukee and N. Elston. Then it picks up again in the northern section east of N. Milwaukee in the 6100 and 6200 blocks. Other roads, such as W. Peterson are major thoroughfares in other parts of Chicago, but show up in the local community as a few blocks of isolated residential streets completely cut off from their roots.

An interesting case is W. Highland, which rears its head for a measly 1-1/2-blocks in the northern part of the Gladstone Park before it pops up as at least three separate, but additional broken strands west in Norwood Park. You’ll find more pieces of W. Highland magically materializing about four miles eastward towards the Lake between the West Ridge and Edgewater Glen communities (Little India) before zigzagging across N. Clark and disappearing forever. Some of the community’s roads are also broken by major thoroughfares or large tracts of land outside its borders such as the Forest Preserve of Cook County only to resume on the other side again (or in the suburbs) with the same names.

As if Gladstone Park didn’t have enough oddities, there is the one long block between N. Milwaukee and N. Melvina that constitutes the neighborhood’s one and only boulevard. East and west sections of the street travel around such a wide, heavily-treed median that residents can look out their front windows at a virtual forest and claim they have a mini-park in their midst.

One end of the N. Medina boulevard on the long block between N. Milwaukee and N. Melvina. Homeowners can look out their living room windows onto a heavily-treed median so wide that is a virtual forest. The mini-park it creates gives an opportunity for residents to walk their dogs in a more natural environment while children can play in a congregate location. (Yes, Gladstonians are required to pick up dog poop.) Photo by Mina.

And then again, there are houses on the most northerly block of N. Melvina and two blocks of N. Indian Road not positioned on a physical road at all, but on a golf course. Although their houses technically have N. Melvina and N. Indian Road addresses, they face sidewalks and extended front yards directly on the18-hole Edgebrook (Public) Golf Course operated by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. These houses are understandably much sought after for their views as well as for sidewalks that are very popular for walks.

Green lines on the most northerly block of N. Melvina and two blocks of N. Indian Road depict the sidewalks and several holes of the Edgebrook (Public) Golf Course run by the Forest Preserves of Cook County that all homes built on them face. Although they have N. Melvina and N. Indian Road street addresses, the only car entry to their properties is via the alleys behind their houses. With no physical roadways in front of their homes, it’s as if they’re in witness protection with no Google drive-by photos to expose them to the world. Residents treasure the views from their front windows and take pleasure in walks along the sidewalks in the atmospheric location. Image from Google Maps.

FUN FACT: Of the 1,145 unique street names in Chicago, Gladstone Park is apparently home to the only N. Manila, N. Magnet and N. McCook Avenues within city limits. These three streets are less than two blocks long with N. McCook the smallest of all at only some 300 feet with a dozen or so houses.