The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Mystery neighborhoods in Chicago

Historian John Schmidt reminisces about looking for southeast-side neighborhoods that turned out not to exist:

As I poured over Grandpa’s Rand McNally city map, I was particularly intrigued with the area just east of Lake Calumet. One group of streets was fronted by Chippewa Avenue, a curved thoroughfare that skirted the edge of the lake. To the south, another group was clustered around a river channel, near the Chicago border with Calumet City. Most interesting of all was a tiny, two-square-block group on the lake’s northeast corner. The streets there were totally isolated from any other streets.

I finally got a car and could get around on my own. Now I could play all the public golf courses that had been too far to reach on the bus. After one visit to the Burnham Woods Golf Course in Burnham, I decided to check out those three subdivisions.

All three were totally vacant. There weren’t any streets to be seen. Just empty, undeveloped land.

It turns out, they were map traps:

Those were fake towns that map-makers would intentionally put on their maps. That way, if a rival map later came out with the fake town on it, the original map-maker could prove plagiarism. Were these streets Rand McNally’s version of trap streets?

Most likely. Here's one of the examples he points to:

Here's the same area today. Note that Lake Calumet got significantly filled in during the post-war years, and the city eventually pushed South Stony Island through:

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