Now, Follow the H-A-W-K!

Yesterday I extolled Chicago’s street grid and gave you a foolproof way to remember the order of some of the major east-west streets on Chicago’s North Side. Here’s a formula for doing the same with some of the major north-south streets.

Remembering that State and Madison are zero-zero in the grid’s numbering system, note the first four major streets (the ones placed every eight blocks) going west from State Street: Halsted, Ashland, Western and Kedzie. What do their first letters spell? Yes, scholars, they spell “hawk.”

When I noticed this, I wanted to incorporate “hawk” as the centerpiece of a mental image that would include as many of the streets going west from State as my imagination could muster.

Acknowledging that mnemonic rhymes with moronic, I came up with an image of a bird pulling a train. That image incorporates State, Halsted, Ashland, Western, Kedzie, Pulaski, Cicero, Central and Narragansett. Here it is: the State Hawk Pulls the Cicero Central Narrow gauge railroad.

And because they’re placed at 8-block intervals from State, you know that Halsted is 800 west, Ashland is 1600 west, and so forth. So if you’re looking for 2416 West Belmont, you know that it’s just past Western. And from yesterday’s lesson, you know that Belmont–the “bear” in yesterday’s sentence–is 3200 north. Voila, you have your coordinates!

Obviously, these little tools leave chunks of the city uncovered, but short of a GPS system (or a retired cabbie riding shotgun with you), they can come in pretty handy. They have for me; now you, too, can gird yourself for the grid.

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  • Jean SmilingCoyote

    These 2 entries about mnemonic devices to memorize Chicago's street grid in part are very cute, but what I know from memory about street locations just comes from having stared at maps a lot. And I do normally carry some maps with me. I got my B.A. in Geography at CSUN, and the process of getting familiar with the street grid in the San Fernando Valley was the same – just using maps a lot.