The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website
Street Name Origins
Have you ever wondered how Rockford got some of its street names? Streets must have some sort of a name and there is a limit to the standard names like Main Street or State Street, or tree names; Elm, Pine, Locust, Oak, Walnut and Mulberry to name a few, or flowers, Daisy, Daffodil, Azalea, Lilac or birds, Bluebird, Cardinal, numbered streets, First Street, Second Avenue, and the list goes on. Sooner or later it gets down to naming the city's streets after famous citizens or politicians. Then great discussion is aroused over the street naming, for the citizens are liable to over-emphasize the importance of a name of a famous person's identity, not realizing that the identity is almost certain to be lost in the constant shuffle of generations over the street bearing his name. Let’s use old Benjamin Kilburn who settled in Rockford in 1837, when the population of Winnebago County was 1,086. He built his first home on the site of the future Nelson Hotel, and out in the northwest end of town, where Kilburn now runs, he owned a stone quarry. It paid him well and he became a prominent citizen of Rockford. A street was named after him, he died, and now everyone has heard of Kilburn Avenue, but who has heard of Benjamin Kilburn? Here is a list of street names that I compiled, if you know the history of any other street in Rockford, please let me know with documentation, I would love to add it to the list.
Andrews Street - Named after John Andrews, land owner in the area.
Bayliss Avenue - Named after Alfred Bayliss, Superintendent of Public Instruction (1904)
Blackhawk Avenue - Named after Chief Blackhawk, the Indian warrior.
Blaisdell Street - Named after Elijah Whittier Blaisdell Jr., newspaper publisher, editor, lawyer, realtor, author, one of the founders of the Illinois Republican party, and first to publish a paper with Abraham Lincoln as a prospective candidate for president of the United States.
Blake Street - Named after Thatcher Blake, one of the first settlers in Rockford.
Boilvin Avenue - Named after Nicholas Boilvin, who purchased land from half-breed Catherine Myott, who had received it through an Indian treaty. Boilvin paid $800 on August 25, 1835. Boilvin tried to form a village called Winnebago, his entry for the then to be chosen county seat. Eventually the part of the land became Greenwood Cemetery.
Boylan Court - Named for John Joseph Boylan, third Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford.
Broadway - Originally named Fourteenth Avenue until 1923 when the city renamed it to Broadway to spark interest in the rapidly expanding Swedish influenced business district between Eleventh and Kishwaukee Streets.
Bruner Street - Named after Myron Bruner, one of the members of the North End land boom in the 1890's.
Camp Avenue - Named after Camp Fuller, the Civil War training camp established in 1862 and named for General Allen Curtiss Fuller. Four regiments trained there. At the time the site was chosen, the land was being planted in corn by Phineas P. Churchill, who leased it to the government. Camp Fuller closed in 1863.
Carney Avenue - Named after the family of Dan Carney who settled at Rockton and Auburn Streets in 1836. A race track was later built on the 80 acres they had owned.
Catlin Street - Named after Doctor Archibald M. Catlin who came to Rockford about 1838 to be a farmer and ended up being a physician. He served the community for 54 years.
Charles Street - An 1869 map shows this as "The State Road to St. Charles".
Church Street - Named after Judge Sheldon M. Church, one of the county's first judges. The family estate was on South Avon at the foot of Cedar for more than 50 years. He was a member of the General Assembly.
Churchill Street - Named after Phineas P. Churchill who in 1835 was one of 27 residents of Rockford. His cornfield became the home of Camp Fuller.
College Avenue - passes the site of Rockford College's original campus, Rockford Female Seminary.
Cosper Avenue - Named after Major Elias Cosper who helped establish the Rockford Public Library.
Court Street - Platted in the first group of streets to be formed near the courthouse.
Crosby Street - Named after Asa Crosby, an early Rockford settler.
Cunningham Street and Road - Named after Issac Newton Cunningham, second Sheriff of Winnebago County.
Dickerman Street - Named for Worcester A. Dickerman, one of the founders of Second National Bank, Rockford College and Rockford Insurance Company.
Douglas Street - Named after Stephen Arnold Douglas, U. S. Senator who debated slavery with Lincoln in 1858 and ran against him for president in 1860.
Ellis Avenue - Named after Edward F. W. Ellis, moving to Rockford in 1854, he was a lawyer and founding member of the Spafford, Clark and Ellis Banking and Exchange Company, and was instrumental in establishing the first fire department in Rockford in 1855, He was also a civil war hero.
Ellsworth Street - Named after Colonel Elmer F. Ellsworth who came to in 1857 to be drillmaster of the Rockford City Grays. When the Union occupied Alexandria, Virginia, Ellsworth saw a Confederate flag flying at the Marshall House hotel. He went upstairs and tore the flag down and was shot in the back by hotel owner, James W. Jackson, who was then himself shot dead by Union soldiers. Ellsworth was the first commanding officer killed in the war, and its first hero. He had been Lincoln's friend and protege, and was romantically linked to Carrie Spafford, a young Rockford socialite.
Enoch Road - An early name for Spring Brook Road. It ran from the old Enoch settlement into Rockford.
Fisher Avenue - Named after John Fisher, an early ferryman on the Rock River.
Ford Street - Named after the rock bottom ford from which this town got its name. There is only one remaining block left of the street between South Second and South Third Streets.
Furman Street - Named after Henry Furman, early farm land dealer, who opened up the street himself and saw it named in 1865.
Garrison Avenue - Named after Thomas Garrison, early pioneer and Realtor who owned large tracts of land in the former Garrison School area.
Gregory Street - Named after Eliphalet Gregory, subdivider.
Grable Street - Named after Betty Grable, movie star.
Guard Street - Named in association with Camp Fuller, the civil war training camp.
Guilford Road - The road which leads from Rockford into what was formerly called Guilford Township.
Hall Street - Named after John H. Hall, grocer, alderman and school board member.
Harlem Boulevard - Named after Harlem, New York, a place familiar for many of Rockford's early settlers.
Halsted Road - Named after Lester B. Halsted, whose father, Jonathon H. Halsted had a 180 acre farm 1-½ miles outside of Rockford along this road. Lester had a hand in the North End land boom of the 1890's.
Haskell Avenue - Named after George Haskell, built the Winnebago House Hotel, first president of the Agricultural Society, organized in 1841; physician, orchard grower, spiritualist and founder of Shurleff College.
Hepburn Street - Named after movie actress Katherine Hepburn.
Hoban Avenue - Named after Edward Francis Hoban, second bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford, appointed in 1928.
Holland Street - Named after John A. Holland, attorney who built the Holland House Hotel.
Horsman Street - Named after Charles I. Horsman who read the Declaration of Independence at county's first Independence Day celebration on July 4, 1837.
Houghton Street - Named after Bethual Houghton, a baker and one of Rockford's early settlers.
Huffman Boulevard - Named after Will Huffman, a prominent figure in the 1890's North End land boom.
Hulin Street - Named after William Hulin who was Justice of the Peace in 1839.
Jacoby Place - Named after Lysander Jacoby who was an attorney coming to Rockford in 1865. The street is named for the lane that led to his house. He would become a recluse, staying inside and reading books, only leaving the house to go to church.
Jefferson Street - Named after Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. The street was originally called Peach Street on the west side and Court Street on the east side. In 1926, Mrs. Cora Marsh, DAR chairperson of the city's Jefferson Observance, was instrumental in petitioning that the street be called Jefferson in the year of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the 100th anniversary of Jefferson's death.
Jilson Avenue - Named after Whipple Jilson, grocer, farmer, tailor and repair shop owner.
Kent Street - Named after Germanicus Kent, founder of Rockford. Established a lumber mill on the creek now bearing his name. In the panic of 1837 he lost his fortune and by 1844 left for Virginia.
Kilburn Avenue - Originally called Pecatonica Street. Named after Benjamin Kilburn who settled in Rockford in 1837. He built his first house where the former Nelson Hotel stood (now a parking lot). A year later he moved to the Northwest end of town where the street bearing his name now runs, and started a stone quarry. Part of his property is now Talcott - Page Park..
Kishwaukee Street - Formerly known as "The State Road to Dixon's Ferry". Named after the Kishwaukee River and possibly the ill fated settlement at the confluence of the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers. The bricks that were taken up from the street before turning it into a cement road to Camp Grant, were used to build a water department building on Tay Street.
Knowlton Street - Named after William Alfred Knowltown, prominent manufacturer of reapers.
Latham Street - Named after Henry A. Latham who served in the Union army, navy and cavalry in the Civil War. Owned Latham Park.
Logan Street - Named after Civil War General John Alexander Logan.
Madison Street - In the early days of Rockford it was platted as the east side's Main Street by Daniel S. Haight. After unification it was decided to change the name in honor of James Madison, fourth president of the United States.
Main Street - One of the first streets platted and indeed one of the main streets in early Rockford.
Mansfield Street - Named after Jayne Mansfield, movie star.
Marchesano Drive - Named after the Rev. Anthony V. Marchesano, pioneer pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua parish.
Marsh Avenue - Named after Edward H. Marsh, attorney, real estate dealer, money lender, notary public and one of the prominent figures in the North End land boom of the 1890's.
Mayflower Avenue - Named after the ship upon which America's first settlers came over in.
Montague Road and Street - Named after Richard Montague, an early settler who purchased large tracts of land on the west side of Rockford. The route the street travels is said to have been an Indian Trail.
Monticello Lane - Named after Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia.
Morgan Street - Named after Abiram Morgan an early settler who purchased tracts of land in west Rockford.
Muldoon Drive - Named after Peter J. Muldoon, first bishop of the Rockford Diocese, appointed in 1908. Working for social justice made him nationally known.
Myott Avenue - Named after Catherine Myott, Indian half breed who received land from an Indian treaty. Her property was bought by Nicolas Boilvin in 1835 for $800.
National Avenue - Name related to Camp Fuller where National Guard members trained for the Civil War. The street was created as a rival to plush Harlem Avenue. Property on it included that of then Mayor John H. Sherratt.
Nelson Boulevard - Named after John Nelson inventor of the Nelson Knitting Machine. When General Grant returned from a world tour and visited Rockford, he claimed he had never seen such a perfect machine. Nelson developed cotton hose - the "Rockford Sock".
Penfield Place - Named after David Penfield who came to Rockford from Vermont in 1838. He was in land and mercantile businesses and banking.
Peoples Avenue - Key east-west streets in River Park subdivision were named after Rockford mayors: Wilkins, Crawford, Taggart, Scovill, Sherratt and Starr. This is clear from a 1905 map. In 1907, the Forbes family foundry, now Gunite moved there, and the only remaining streets were Peoples Avenue, Starr and Scovill.
Pierpont Avenue - Named after Guy Pierpont, one of the county's leading farmers who came to the area in 1857.
Post Avenue - Named after John Russell Post, Guilford township supervisor, Mason, and active Republican and a graduate of Rockford High School, Class of 1863.
Preston Street - Originally named Factory Street it was probably changed to Preston Street after a friend or relative of Seldon M. Church as it runs through property he owned, and the Preston's are engraved on the back of his tombstone in Cedar Bluff Cemetery.
Price Street - Named after Henry W. Price who came to Rockford in 1858. Owner of Price Glove Company he dealt in leather, boots, gloves and built the Price Block on South Wyman Street.
Quaker Road - Named after the former Quaker Oats Company pet food plant to which it led.
Railroad Avenue - Named after the railroad tracks that ran parallel to the road.
Regan Street - Named after Marshall H. Regan who came here from Rochester, New York in 1842. Contractor, builder, lumber trader. His son, Frank S. Regan was an attorney and member of the Illinois General Assembly.
Rockford Avenue - originally the portion north of East State Street was Berlin Avenue, Sentiment during the first World War prompted the name change.
Rood Avenue - Named after H. L. Rood early Rockford businessman.
Rural Street - as the name suggests, the street was literally at the northern edge of Rockford.
Rutgers Place - Named after the university in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
St. Francis Drive - Named after the School Sisters of Saint Francis who staffed Boylan Central Catholic High School.
Sanford Street - Named after Goodyear Asa Sanford who came to Rockford in 1837. Early county sheriff and school commissioner, merchant and president of Second National Bank.
School Street - Difficult to determine origin but possibly related to the fact that a county school was located near Springfield and West State according to a 1869 map.
Scovill Street - Named after Horace Scovill, Rockford mayor 1887-89.
Sherman Street - Named after William Tecumseh Sherman, Union general in the Civil War.
Somerset Lane - Named after the county and city in England.
Starr Street - Named after Henry Nevins Starr who came to Rockford in 1850 with his father, Melancthon Starr. Owned dry goods store and Holland House Hotel. Mayor of Rockford 1891-92, first tom appoint women to public boards, strong supporter of baseball in the Forest City.
State Street - The "State Road" that passed east-west through Rockford.
Tannenbaum Lane - Named after the German Christmas tree.
Tinker Street - Named after Robert H. Tinker who was born in Hawaii in 1836 and came to Rockford in 1856. Built Tinker Swiss Cottage, park commissioner and Mayor of Rockford in 1875.
Van Wie Avenue - Named after Edgar Allison Van Wie, Civil War soldier who fought in the first battle of Bull Run. Came to Rockford in 1866, one of the founders of the Rockford Burial Case Company and secretary and treasurer of various companies.
Vassar Drive - Named after Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Waldo Street - Named by Selden Church for his intimate friend Hiram H. Waldo who came to this city in 1846 to teach school and also helped form the Illinois free school law.
Willard Avenue - May be named after Willard Wheeler, Rockford's first mayor.
Woodruff Avenue - Named after Gilbert Woodruff, land developer and president of Rockford National Bank and Forest City Insurance Company.
Wyman Street - Named after Ephriam Wyman one of the first bakers and real estate dealers in town. County treasurer and assessor 1844-45. Platted tract of land in heart of west Rockford.
Yale Drive - Named after Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Welcome to Rockford. Sometimes navigating Rockford Streets can be confusing, especially for out of town tourists. Take 31st Street which begins at Broadway for example, it changes names north of Charles Street, to Peter Avenue for two blocks where it becomes Fairview Avenue, which later becomes Fairview Boulevard after State Street. Then after Guilford Road it becomes Chelsea up to Highcrest Road, make a right turn on Highcrest and then a left and you are on Edgebrook Drive.
Guilford Road begins at Rural Street and will take you to Alpine Road, but you must make a left on Alpine and travel four blocks north to reconnect with Guilford Road. If you went straight across Alpine on the south you would end up on Skyline Drive, on the north if you traveled straight you would find yourself on Brendenwood Road, which would take you to Mayfair Place, where you would turn right on Mayfair and proceed to the rest of Brendenwood Road.
Confused yet? What about Fifth Avenue, that becomes College Avenue after Kishwaukee Street, then Morgan Street at the Rock River before it turns into Cunningham Road at South Johnston Avenue.
The strip of pavement that starts out as Fifteenth Avenue becomes Marchesano Drive after crossing South Main Street, then Michigan Avenue after Clifton Street.
And then there is Chestnut Street, a portion of which becomes a one way street at West State Street, and changes into Walnut Street after the Rock River, and then changes names to First Avenue at Kishwaukee Street and into Longwood after crossing Charles Street.
I am sure there others that we did not cover here.
Even the city engineers can't explain why the road system ended up like this.
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