Shed some daylight

When riding north on N. Oakley, between St. Mary’s parking lot and Clemente High School’s playing fields, I always hear the sound of rushing water. Even in entirely dry months, a long-forgotten stream can be heard through a storm drain at the intersection with Potomac. Did this creek ever have a name? Does it flow more or less where it was, or has it been routed through the grid? Where are its headwaters, where does it meet the river?

Such lost streams have been well-documented in, say, London where countless old maps show the terrain as it existed centuries before industrialization wiped it all away. I haven’t spent much time looking (it’d be a great excuse to sit at the Newberry for a day), but it seems that many 19th century maps of pre-subdivision Chicago wanted to show the city as the speculators hawked it (a vast blank slate ready for development) rather than as it actually was.

(On a side note, I did find this 1898 bike map at the Regenstein’s web site. Back then, an “appropriate” road for cycling was a paved one.)

I’m also struck by how the buildings around it have been wiped away by urban renewal. I vaguely remember a presentation from years ago — I don’t remember by whom — which overlaid a map of abandoned properties in a Philadelphia neighborhood with a map of its subterranean stream. Homes located nearest the stream were much more likely to be abandoned, perhaps in part because of costly foundation troubles — but perhaps, also, the old hydrology’s “miasma” is taking revenge.

5 thoughts on “Shed some daylight

  1. I kind of doubt there were many real streams in pre-development Chicago. Just lots of generalized wetness that got concentrated into specific channels and then buried as the city was built up. I’d love to see a map, though!

  2. Just a few blocks from Artesian Ave???
    There are many old artesian wells in Chicago, all covered up by urban sprawl.

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