Even Before the Chicago Fire (by Elisa Addlesperger)

[Following is a guest post by fellow Avondalite Elisa Addlesperger]

Located adjacent to the C&N.W. railroad, the village of Avondale was established as early as 1869.(1)  Even before the Chicago Fire, developers were counting on expansion beyond the city borders.  A real estate advertisement for a property located near the intersection of Milwaukee and Diversey boasted a “10 minutes’ walk to depot, commutation fare 6 1/4 cents.”(2)

The name “Avondale” is pleasant and rather bland, almost like that of a modern suburb.   When beginning my research, I presumed a developer was appealing to the then-fashionable craze for all things related to ancient Scotland.  However, according to an unpublished guide on Chicago street name origins, both the street and area were named for the town of Avondale, Pennsylvania by developer John Lewis Cochran. (3)  Cochran established several subdivisions on the north and northwest side of Chicago, often naming streets after towns in his native Pennsylvania. (4)  On September 6, 1869, the worst U.S. mining accident to date occurred at the Avondale Colliery in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.   A wooden coal breaker flue caught on fire, trapping and suffocating 110 mine workers.  Obvious oversights (mostly for economy) by the owners, such as providing only one exit, and attaching furnace ventilation into the mine shaft, directly contributed to the disaster.(5)  The tragedy was extensively covered in Chicago newspapers, and Mr. Cochran might have chosen the name to commemorate the memory of those lost.

1. Forgotten Chicago “Holiday in Avondale.” Daniel Pogorzelski

2. Chicago Tribune 29 Mar 1872.
“For sale, MAPLEWOOD $259 BUYS a choice residence lot in Wisner’s Milwaukee-av. Addition. First payment $50 and $3 per week until paid. Title perfect. Abstract to each purchaser. This property fronts on Milwaukee and Diversey avs., near school. Logan Park, boulevard, artesian well; 10 minutes’ walk to depot, commutation fare 6 1/4 cents. We take you to see the lots free of charge. Office open evenings…WISNER BROS.”

3. Chicago History Museum.
“Avondale Ave., 2800W 2900NW to 6800. Named for the community of Avondale in the NW corner of the Logan District. Named by subdivider John Lewis Cochran after Avondale, PA. Chicago Ave., Holcomb Ave., Roberts Ave., Euclid Ave., Railroad Ave., (Libby St. at 4800N 5200W)-Avondale Ave., 3650W 3600 to”

4. Gapers Block. “Roscoe Street, or Why So Many Chicago Streets Are Named for Towns in Pennsylvania.”  Alice Maggio

5. U.S. Dept. of Labor. Mine Safety and Health Administration.  “The Great Disaster at Avondale Colliery – September 6, 1869.”

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