Honorary Streets

City dwellers driving through congested streets everywhere on earth experience angst. Perhaps that is why the City of Chicago started its Honorary Street Program in 1984, hoping to ameliorate the stress and make its roadways more fun. The initiative was geared to allow for a street to have a secondary name in recognition of a significant person, building, place, organization or event as an addendum to its official street name.

Brown honorary street signs with the city flag’s four stars surrounding the honoree’s name are placed on poles near the standard green street signs they complement. All honorary street signs are given the suffix “Way” with no directional prefixes in order not to confuse them with the actual street names that the city and U.S. Post Office recognize for official purposes. Nominees for the signs come to the City Council for approval through the Aldermen representing the 50 wards.

Despite being warned not to use honorary street names for legal and emergency purposes such as addressing letters or calling 9-1-1, some people latch onto them with less than ideal results. As a result, the city had to start issuing a list of commemorative street names specifically for the United State Postal Service to use for cross-referencing. Police, fire and other vital services also try to stay apprised of the honorary labels so they can provide timely responses.

But it’s tough. While Honorary Chicago claims it holds the “largest collection of honorary street names, locations and biographies of the people, events and days commemorated by the City of Chicago” and prints the Honorary Chicago Guidebook: The Who, Where, and Why of Chicago’s Brown Honorary Street Signs by Linda Zabors, now in its second edition, it doesn’t have all the answers. For the organization has had to juggle not only the more than 2,000 commemorative names that have been designated monthly in cumulative fashion since 1984, but also an “undetermined” number of such signs that had been approved and erected before the program was official.

If Gladstone Park were to depend on outside sources like this one for its information, it would conclude the neighborhood has only one honorary street…Honorary Frank Monaco Way on N. Moody. But there are actually four. And maybe a fifth.

Honorary Frank Monaco Way on N. Moody, one of Gladstone Park’s commemorative streets, designated in 2016. This view was snapped at the corner of N. Moody with W. Ardmore and is on the block that holds the St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (formerly St. Tarcissus) Roman Catholic Church, school and parsonage. Despite an extensive search, the author could find no information online about who this person was or why he had an honorary street devoted to him. Photo by Mina.

Gladstonians will also find a second commemorative street sign, Honorary John Cadogan Way, at the intersection of N. Merrimac and W. Ardmore. It is dedicated to the 1992-1996 Chicago Police Department Patrol Division Chief who was credited with instituting the first reorganization of the city’s 1200 neighborhood police beats in more than 20 years, according to the June 28, 2002 Chicago Tribune.

Gladstone Park’s second commemorative street, Honorary John Cadogan Way, at the corner of N. Merrimac and W. Ardmore. Cadogan, a Chicago Police Department Patrol Division Chief from 1992-1996, was recognized for being the first to reorganize the city’s 1200 neighborhood police beats in more than 20 years. Photo by Mina.

The third commemorative street sign is Honorary Pastor Paul Pfeffer Way, found on the corner of W. Peterson and N. Melvina. Since there are at least two (alive, Evangelical Lutheran) Pastor Paul Pfeffers in the Chicago area and no biography or reply to an email about this street dedicatee from Honorary Chicago online, the author cannot be sure whether he is one of these or someone else.

The third commemorative street sign in Gladstone Park, Honorary Pastor Paul Pfeffer Way, on the corner of W. Peterson and N. Melvina. It is unknown who the dedicatee is. Unfortunately the sign has been bent by some unknown event for some time. Photo by Mina.

Gladstone Park’s fourth commemorative street sign is legendary, dedicated to what is undoubtedly the Gladstone Park’s most well-known attraction. On the corner of N. Milwaukee and W. Highland is Honorary Superdawg Way in recognition of the iconic Superdawg Hot Dog Drive-In…that blast from the past that’s nationally known as one of the few remaining midcentury restaurants that still offers carhop service.

Gladstone Park’s fourth commemorative street sign, Honorary Superdawg Way, recognizes perhaps its greatest attraction: the Superdawg Hot Dog Drive-In Restaurant with carhop service and architecture from midcentury America. Since the restaurant isn’t on a corner, but is between a W. Devon gas station and Sky Liquors on N. Milwaukee, the sign can be seen at the corner of N. Milwaukee and W. Highland. Photo by Mina.

Turns out, Gladstonians were lucky to have snuck the Superdawg sign by the City Council when it did. For in 2016, when 85 new honorary street signs were approved throughout Chicago, there was an uproar over their burgeoning numbers. Applicant requirements were tightened up in 2017, limiting the commemorative signs only to individuals and groups — not buildings, places, or events. And people being commemorated had to be dead. During the next two years the number of new honorary streets was cut to less than half, according to graphs mounted by Honorary Chicago.

But even more significantly, the onus for the establishment and maintenance of the honorary streets was put squarely on the backs of the aldermen and nominating wards. Not only can wards nominate no more than two honorary street signs a year, but also they must pay for their signs’ production, installation, and removal.

In addition, the commemorative signs were given five-year expiration dates. Perhaps this rule came about after the Council felt it had to repeal the controversial “Honorary Trump Plaza Way” sign the same year (2016) it was lobbying for new rules. Now if a commemorative street sign doesn’t get renewed for another five-year period, provisions call for the city to remove them.

No one yet knows how this will shake out. Will the Chicago Department of Streets & Sanitation sneak in in the dead of night and quietly take down Gladstone Park’s Honorary Street Signs recognizing Frank Monaco, John Cadogan, Pastor Paul Pfeffer and Superdawg because our ward didn’t renew them properly?

Interestingly, after skimming through reams of commemorative road designations listed on Honorary Chicago, the author stumbled on a 2014 listing for a “Chopin Plaza,” creating the question of whether “Honorary Chopin Plaza Way” might be the neighborhood’s fifth commemorative street. While it’s true other parts of the City of Chicago are named after Chopin and might be the true recipient of the honor, 2014 was a banner year for honoring the composer in Gladstone Park. After all, it was the year when its northwestern Welcome Park formed by the merger of N. Milwaukee and N. Elston was–with great fanfare–renamed Chopin Plaza for the Polish composer to honor the many Poles who settled in the community. But if there is supposed to be a brown “Honorary Chopin Park Way” sign there, it is a ghost sign.