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CAC’s Jen Masengarb partnered with WBEZ’s Curious City to research this story in response to a question submitted by curious citizens. Listen to the broadcast.

Why would one building have two addresses? Today Chicago is known for having one of the simplest street systems of any big city in the world, with every address emanating out from a central origin point at the intersection of State and Madison Streets. But it wasn’t always that way.

Edward Paul Brennan, an unsung hero of urban planning, spent much of his life taming the navigational chaos of Chicago’s adolescence. His legacy lives on more than a century later—even if few people know his name.

“Dear Sir, Do you think a city should have two streets with the same name? Do you think a city should have one street with two or three, or even ten names? You agree that such naming of streets is ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of any city. Yet Chicago, your city, has hundreds of such streets. This confusion costs you and the other citizens of Chicago hundreds of thousands of dollars annually…”

– Edward Brennan


Read the full article with photos and maps to learn more about the Chicagoan who, as some argue, had a greater impact on the city than architect and planner Daniel Burnham.