by Colleen Taylor Sen

Edward Paul Brennan (1867-1942). One of the glories of Chicago is its logical and consistent street numbering system. This was largely due to the efforts of one man, City Building Superintendent Edward Paul Brennan, who was also a Rogers Parker.

Edward Paul Brennan

Edward Paul Brennan

Chicago grew by annexation, and each new part had its own naming and numbering convention. Moreover, the political custom of honorary street naming resulted in multiple streets with the same name, as well as many streets being known by several different names along their lengths.

In 1901, Brennan, who was also Chair of the Subcommittee on Street Numbers and Signs of the City Club, recommended that Chicago be reorganized as a large grid: State and Madison Streets were the main north-south and east-west axes and the intersection of these two streets was zero/zero. House numbers rose by 800 every mile except on parts of the South Side. In 1908, after years of debate and alterations, the Chicago City Council adopted the “Brennan Plan.” The City Council later changed the names of duplicate streets as well as “broken link” streets such as Halsted, which had different names at different points.

Brennan also wanted east-west streets to be called “streets,” north-south streets to be termed “avenues” and diagonal streets to be called “roads,” but this recommendation was not fully implemented.