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LOCAL HISTORY
What's in a name?

Watch now: The history of 12 more street names in Bloomington-Normal

The story behind 12 unique street names in Bloomington-Normal

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In June, The Pantagraph dug into the history behind some of the Twin Cities’ most unusual street names. But in a community with history dating back nearly 200 years, there’s plenty of ground left to cover when it comes to the naming of city streets.

BLOOMINGTON — In June, The Pantagraph dug into the history behind some of the Twin Cities’ most unusual street names. But in a community with history dating back nearly 200 years, there’s plenty of ground left to cover when it comes to the naming of city streets.

Watch now: The story behind 12 unique street names in Bloomington-Normal

Here’s a look at 12 more street names in Bloomington-Normal:

Linden Street

In this November 2017 file photo, traffic moves on Linden Street after the opening of the rebuilt bridge over Sugar Creek north of Emerson Street in Bloomington. Linden is one of many streets named for trees in Bloomington-Normal, a reminder of early Twin Citian Jesse Fell's affection for trees.

1. A series of tree-themed names. If you’ve noticed a number of Bloomington-Normal streets named for trees, the credit goes to early Twin Citian Jesse Fell. He loved trees, as evidenced by the nearly 20 streets named for trees, and the several thousand shade trees he had planted along those byways. Among them are Chestnut, Elm, Hickory, Linden, Locust, Maple, Mulberry, Oak, Poplar and Walnut.

Emerson Street

Franklin K. Phoenix named Emerson Street for fellow "radical" of his time Ralph Waldo Emerson.

2. Streets with a “radical” beginning. Franklin K. Phoenix laid out a large city addition in about 1867, and Franklin and Phoenix avenues now bear his name. Franklin was, according to an early history of McLean County, “a radical in politics, in religion, and in everything.” So, he named streets for other radicals at the time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Charles Sumner and Henry Ward Beecher. Emerson and Beecher streets still exist, but Garrison and Sumner have been renamed.

Prairie Street

In this November 2017 file photo, blazing red trees line Empire and Prairie streets. When Prairie Street was named, its northern end stopped at the prairie, and it was believed this would always be true. 

3. Prairie Street. When this street was named, stretching north-south between Empire and Grove streets, its northern end stopped at the prairie, and it was believed this would always be true. Today, the city has expanded well beyond that point, and where Prairie meets Empire is now the edge of the busy Illinois Wesleyan University campus. One would have to drive a few more miles for a glimpse of the prairie.

White Place

S.R. White laid out White Place, North Clinton Boulevard and Fell Avenue in 1898, aiming for the neighborhoods to hold “several fine residences” with “new streets, elegant pavements and improvements.” 

4. White Place. S.R. White laid out this street and others nearby in 1898. He aimed for it to hold “several fine residences” with “new streets, elegant pavements and improvements.” Indeed, White Place today, along with North Clinton Boulevard and Fell Avenue, is home to some of Bloomington’s most beautiful historic homes, with plenty of mature trees forming a canopy over the streets. Clinton and White Place also have medians with additional greenery.

Boardwalk Circle

The Park Place Subdivision in west Bloomington, and part of Normal, has several streets named for tiles on the iconic Monopoly board game.

5. A “Monopoly” on street names. The Park Place Subdivision in west Bloomington, and part of Normal, has several streets named for tiles on the iconic Monopoly board game: Pacific Avenue, Vermont Avenue, Reading Road, Ventnor Avenue, Boardwalk Circle and Park Place Drive. The subdivision plan was approved in 1988, and while it was originally proposed to feature streets named after trees, developers Vern and Kurt Prenzler must have had a change of heart. Perhaps they thought the Twin Cities had enough streets named for trees? (See No. 1.)

Empire Street

Empire Street was named for a large factory in town called The Empire Works. 

6. Empire Street. To what empire is this busy street referring? Originally called North Grove Street, it was changed to Empire Street to reflect a large factory in town called The Empire Works. The factory’s creator, W.F. Flagg, built the county’s second courthouse, a brick building that stood from 1836 to 1868. He was also known for his invention and manufacturing of early harvesting machines, and for his work in real estate. Flagg’s legacy also lives on in Bloomington’s Eugene Street, which was named for one of his sons, described as “a young man of great promise who died in early manhood.”

Belt Avenue

Normal’s place in Steak ‘n Shake history is cemented with this street named for A.H. “Gus” Belt, who founded the restaurant chain in Normal in 1934.

7. Belt Avenue. Normal’s place in Steak ‘n Shake history is cemented with this street named for A.H. “Gus” Belt, who founded the restaurant chain in Normal in 1934.

Allin Street

Bloomington might not exist if it weren’t for James Allin, who donated the original 25 acres of land that became the city. He would go on to name Catherine and Livingston streets for his wife, Catherine Livingston Allin, and Lee Street for his son, Lee Allin.

8. Allin Street. Bloomington might not exist if it weren’t for James Allin, who donated the original 25 acres of land that became the city. He would go on to name Catherine and Livingston streets for his wife, Catherine Livingston Allin, and Lee Street for his son, Lee Allin.

Willedrob Road

Developer Bill Brady Jr.’s father, William Brady Sr., came up with the name "Willedrob" by combining parts of his three sons’ names: William, Edward and Robert. 

9. Willedrob Drive. If you’ve even seen a street name and thought, “Surely someone just made that up,” you would be correct. Developer Bill Brady Jr.’s father, William Brady Sr., came up with this name by combining parts of his three sons’ names: William, Edward and Robert. You can find the street off Four Seasons Road in Bloomington.

Yotzonot Drive

Yotzonot Drive comes from the Mayan language and means “place of well-being or prosperity.” Apparently, the developer of this neighborhood also owned property in the Mexican state of Yucatan, home to a town and a cenote bearing the name “Yokdzonot.”

10. Yotzonot Drive. This name, while unusual, is not made up. It comes from the Mayan language and means “place of well-being or prosperity.” Apparently, the developer of this neighborhood also owned property in the Mexican state of Yucatan, home to a town and a cenote bearing the name “Yokdzonot.”

Hershey Road

Pavement patches could been seen in March 2014 on southbound Hershey Road at Lincoln Street on Bloomington's east side. The origin of the name "Hershey Road" is a bit of a puzzler, but we can tell you one thing: It’s not named after chocolate. It may have been named for Dr. L.E. Hersey, who owned a violin school in town and was affiliated with the music program at Illinois Wesleyan University, and his son, Max Hersey, a prominent physician and surgeon — and at some point the road became Hershey instead of Hersey.

11. Hershey Road. This one’s a bit of a puzzler, but we can tell you one thing: It’s not named after chocolate. The start of today’s Hershey Road is seen on city documents in the 1960s, but at the time, it was merely a country road called “public road.” In 1969, plans were being made for the Broadmoor Subdivision in southeast Bloomington, and a city map at that time labeled the public road Hershey Road. One theory on the name’s origin points to two well-known residents by the name of Hersey: Dr. L.E. Hersey, who owned a violin school in town and was affiliated with the music program at Illinois Wesleyan University, and his son, Max Hersey, a prominent physician and surgeon. It’s possible the road was named for one or both of these men, but at some point, Hersey became Hershey instead.

Stringtown Road

In this Pantagraph file photo, McLean County Highway Department crews clear debris from beneath the Union Pacific Railroad underpass on Stringtown Road, just west of Old Route 66 on the southwest side of Bloomington. Settlers began making their homes here in the early 1830s. At the time, there was no formal name for the area, so people identified it by looking for the “string of houses,” and it soon became known as Stringtown Road.

12. Stringtown Road. Settlers began making their homes in this spot southwest of Bloomington in the early 1830s. At the time, there was no formal name for the area, so people identified it by looking for the “string of houses” easily seen on the flat prairie land, according to Pantagraph archives. It soon became known as Stringtown Road.

Sources: McLean County Museum of History; Pantagraph archives; City of Bloomington

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