View Full Version : Michigan Boulevard?
02-05-2009, 06:21 PM
A long time ago I read a book that had been written a long time before that. The events of the book took place in the future, but that future was past by the time I read it. Anyway, the book referenced the Art Institute as being on Michigan Boulevard. I know the Mag Mile is sometimes called "Boul Mich" and was once called Michigan Boulevard, but I think the name applied only north of the river (there was no bridge at the time) while the Michigan Boulevard Historic District today is entirely south of the river. Why people would have bothered to change the name to "avenue" is also a mystery--the street fits the description of a boulevard. Any thoughts on this?
02-07-2009, 06:00 PM
I'd be interested on some light shed on this.
As a former Chicago resident who has had more occasion to hang around Paris in recent years, I'd come to assume that the Chicago reference to "Boul Mich" was an imitation of the Parisian tradition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulevard_Saint-Michel) of referring to Boulevard Saint-Michel in the heart of the Left Bank by that name. (For instance , there's a reasonable cafe one block west of the junction with Boulevard Saint-Germain called Cafe Boul Mich.) Calling Michigan Avenue by the same nickname seemed an obvious riff involving classy imitation.
What is the evidence that the name "Michigan Boulevard" predated the nickname being applied to the same stretch of street?
02-07-2009, 11:44 PM
As far as I can determine, the name of the street has always been "Michigan Avenue." In 1879, Michigan Avenue between Jackson and 35th was turned over to the South Parks Commission to serve as a boulevard between the business district and Grand Boulevard (today's King Drive). In the decades afterward, it is common to read references to "Michigan Avenue boulevard" or sometimes just "Michigan Boulevard."
As the Michigan Avenue bridge was being discussed and planned in the first two decades of the 20th century, it was often referred to as the "boulevard link" between the North and South Side boulevard and park systems. But seldom is there any use of "Michigan Boulevard" to refer to the avenue north of the river.
In the 1920s, the term "Boul Mich" appears as an informal reference to the new avenue's elegance, making a comparison to the Parisian Boulevard St-Michel.
02-26-2009, 09:22 AM
This link settles most of the questions:
I thought I had read previously that Michigan Boulevard was north of the river before the Great Fire, but never south of the river. Either that source flipped them or I did. It's also clear from this link:
showing a bunch of color photograph postcards from the 1920s that the area around the Art Institute was commonly called Boulevard at that time.
Bonzer, you are correct that the Paris Boul Mich predates Chicago's and is probably the reason this nickname was used for north Mich Ave.
03-06-2009, 11:29 PM
North of the river it was never known as Michigan anything until 1917. It was either Pine Street or Lincoln Park Boulevard (from Ohio north).
No part of Michigan Avenue has ever been named Michigan Boulevard. The confusion comes from the fact that part of it was a boulevard in the legal and technical sense, and from sloppy public usage.
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