Who Was Daniel Elston?

Daniel Elston (1790-1855) is not a prominent figure in Avondale history, and as of yet doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. But, his namesake street runs directly through the eastern edge of the neighborhood, supplying us with long stretches of bungalows, factories, a neighborhood tavern, and a former movie theater. As a resident of Avondale, I’m a fan of all things Elston… and hope to document this street so thoroughly that I throw up (i.e. ad nauseum).

A British merchant born in Lincolnshire in 1790, by 1830 Mistah Elston had purchased a 160-acre tract along the Woodstock Trail (now Elston Avenue) in what is now the River West neighborhood. Co-proprietor of Elston & Woodruff, which manufactured soap and candles in a log barn on Kinzie Street at the river, he was also a brickmaker and built a small brewery and distillery. The multi-talented Elston served as a school inspector, and reigned briefly as an alderman in 1842. In 1855, shortly after being denied permission to move his house across the Chicago River, he met the grim reaper and now lies underground in Graceland Cemetery next to his wife of 25 years, Blanche Maria Cull.

Today, his namesake street Elston Avenue runs 9 1/2 miles, branching off from Milwaukee Avenue a bit north of Peterson and rejoining Milwaukee Avenue just north of Chicago Avenue.

For future exploration:

  • Little is known about Daniel Elston. However, a collection of letters to his British friend Harry Surnam is available at the U of I Champaign-Urbana Illinois History Collection. Road trip!!!
  • Elston’s birthday is May 20. What better way to honor his 223rd birthday than to walk the length of Elston Avenue on May 20, 2013?

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