Street Smarts

Your address turns 100.

By Steve Rhodes
|  Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009  |  Updated 10:28 AM CDT
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Celebrating Chicago's Grid

hotelchatter.com

State and Madison is the center of the Chicago universe.

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The famed Chicago street grid turns 100 today.

But just like the city itself, even a collection of north-south, east-west streets don't make the whole map.

It takes the crooked streets to get you to where you want to go in this town - or at least to get you there faster.

The Chicago City Council approved the grid system in 1908 - the same year the Cubs last won the World Series.

Before the grid, addresses didn't follow in the right order and some street names were duplicated, city historian Tim Samuelson told the Chicago Tribune.

But the simple box system - emulated around the world - isn't quite enough in a city as big as Chicago.

God bless the angled cross streets that slice across the grid going northeast, southeast, northwest and southwest. For that is the way we travel.

But give the system its due. It re-set the city's geography, marking State and Madison as the city's central intersection from which all addresses flow.

Before that, numbers flew from a point on the Chicago River. (You can find a link to what your address would have been pre-grid here.)

The grid made sense of the chaos, although they claim that it is nearly impossible to get lost if you commit the grid to memory is a bit of a stretch.

Still, the grid has served us well.

Honor it today by only traveling at right angles.

And don't let on that our system actually originated in Philadelphia.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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