Fred, Ada, William, Henry, and others were people before they were streets
By Marlene Cook
LANSING, Ill. (August 13, 2022) – Have you ever wondered how a street got its name? There are approximately 125 street names in Lansing — not counting the numbered streets — and more than seven square miles of roadways to wonder about.
Researching the origin of these street names is challenging because not much documentation is available, and different people have different stories about the same streets. There is a lot of folklore involved. Some companies named their access roads after the company. Some developers named subdivision streets after a daughter or favorite person. Others are named for Lansing’s early settlers, U.S. presidents, or trees.
People from Lansing history
Bernice. When the brickyards came to Lansing, the Pennsylvania Railroad laid its rails through town. There were three stations that eventually went to Calumet City, Lansing, and Bernice, Illinois. A depot and switch track were built just north of what is now the expressway, and that road was also called Bernice. It’s believed that Bernice was the daughter of one of the railroad executives.
William and Henry. In 1882 William Winterhoff, Lansing pioneer, married Wilhelmina Gottschalk of Homewood. Winterhoff shortly after purchased the Ridge Road general store from Henry Lansing. He and his bother-in-law, Henry Gottschalk, were the first to lay out a subdivision in Lansing in the area between what became William Street and Henry Street (named after Winterhoff and Gottschalk), north of Ridge Road. William Winterhoff founded the Lansing Fire Department and served with the department for 51 years, including seven years as Fire Chief. He died in 1973.
Fred Lorenz. Fred Lorenz may be the only person in Lansing history to have two streets named for him. Fred Street is a short road that led into his coal yard business near Ridge and Torrence. Lorenz Street runs north from Ridge Road intermittently to the Little Calumet River. Lorenz started his coal business in 1923 and in 1936 switched to construction, mainly bridge and road work. He registered the Fred Lorenz subdivision in January of 1926.
The VanSteenberg family. Ada VanSteenberg was the daughter of Alfred VanSteenberg, Lansing’s second Village President, who served for 34 years. Ada became a fifth and sixth grade teacher in Lansing Public Schools. She was a graduate of the American Conservatory of Music and taught music privately. Her father also served as County Commissioner for 14 years, Township Tax Collector for 10 years, and Township Assessor for a year. The family was considered high society, and their home on Ridge Road was like a mansion. Ada Street was named for Ada VanSteenberg.
The Schultz family. Christian Schultz and his brothers John, Fred, and Henry were the sons of Mr. and Mrs. August Schultz. The family immigrated from Germany to Lansing in 1856 and became farmers, eventually owning 413 acres. Christian was an enterprising man and in 1866 started a hay pressing business that became Lansing’s first industry.
Christian Schultz married Sophia Lange in 1867. Her namesake street is Lange Street, which runs north-south one block east of Wentworth. Sophia immigrated with her family to Dyer, Indiana, from Germany when she was 16 years old. Legend has it they came on a sailboat that took them nine months due to adverse winds that kept blowing the little boat back toward England.
Christian and Sophia had two daughters, Anna and Elizabeth; and three sons, William, Henry, and Charles. Ann Street is located on the former Schultz farmland and is believed to be named for Anna Schultz (Mrs. Louis Hausler). And Miller Drive is believed to be named for Christian Schultz’s other daughter, Elizabeth, who became Mrs. Charles Miller. After Christian died in 1813, the family continued to farm. Elizabeth and her husband Charles farmed the land east of Ada Street to Wentworth Avenue and south to 186th Street.
In 1927 Christian’s son Henry sold his inherited 75 acres, and the new owners laid out a subdivision of 100 new homes. Henry dedicated a five-acre tract in the center of the subdivision for a public recreation center to be known as Schultz Park. North and South Schultz Drives border the park, with Schultz Drive entering the area from Wentworth on the east and Greenbay on the west. Otto Schultz was another member of the Schultz clan, and he partnered with Gustav Bock in the grocery/hardware business. Otto Street is named after him, and Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware is named after Gustav.
Henry Bock. It is believed that Bock Road was named for Henry Bock, one of the wealthiest and best known businessmen in town. He was an immigrant from Germany who moved here in the early 1870s. He bought a blacksmith shop on corner of Indiana and Torrence and began selling farm implements and hardware. Bock was considered the best wagon maker in the Calumet region and made all the wagons and implements for the farmers of the north part of the county. Later he set up his sons, Henry Jr. and Gustav (Gus) with the Henry Bock & Sons Hardware and Supplies Shop, located across the street. Henry Bock died March 19, 1911, at age 63, after a short illness. He left behind his widow and seven children. Henry Bock also has a Lansing park named in his honor — Bock Park at 175th and Chicago Avenue.
Andrew Ward. Located east of Memorial Junior High School, Ward Street was named for the Andrew Ward family. Ward was an assistant superintendent of landscaping at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. For 20 years he engaged in railroad construction. Later he was associated with his sons — Will, Andrew Jr., and Arthur — in road building, and he laid concrete roads through all the mid-western states. It’s believed he worked with Fred Lorenz in pouring the first concrete on Ridge Road.
Viola Schultz. Violet Road is named for Viola Schultz, sister of Walter W. Schultz, founder of the Walter W. Schultz Insurance Agency on Torrence Avenue in Lansing. Viola was a teacher at Trinity Lutheran School and was also a beautician. Her brother Walter and his wife Cherrie had one daughter, Diane, who lived on her aunt’s namesake street — Violet Road — her entire life. Diane later married former Lansing Mayor Norman Abbott, who continues to live on Violet Road.
The Ton family. Ton Avenue, named for the Jan Ton family, is a short roadway just north of the expressway between Chicago and Railroad Avenues. John Ton (May 30, 1826 – June 4, 1896) was a Dutch-born American abolitionist active in the Underground Railroad in Illinois. The Ton annual reunions made history when Life Magazine featured them as the “Largest Family Reunion in American History.”
Honorary Drives and Lanes
Honorary Edward Krumm Drive. Edward Krumm came to America from Germany with his dad Henry in 1850. They opened Lansing’s first business — the Union Hotel — on the southwest corner of Ridge and Wentworth. The Krumms continued to invest in the community with ventures such as the hotel and tavern, coffee and tea sales, a poultry and egg business, farming, supplying building materials, and more. Receipts for a very large amount of cement bags found among family business papers were dated December 7, 1926, coinciding with the completion of the Ford Hanger at the Lansing Municipal Airport. The Edward Krumm honorary street sign at the corner of Randolph and Henry Streets is located where a driveway led to their property. The sign was installed by the Lansing Historical Society in October 2015.
Honorary Peter Wiers Lane. Peter Wiers Lane is located at the LARC campus at 19043 Wentworth Avenue. It was named in honor of Peter Wiers, who was a very active, civic-minded citizen. He was a leader in the purchase of the land for LARC and a member of the Lansing Community Benefit Association that managed and leased the new facility. The workshop built in 1979 also was dedicated to him. Peter Wiers died February 26, 1992, and is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Honorary Sailor Lane. Sailor Lane was dedicated in honor of Thaddeus “Ted” Sailor in recognition of his community achievements and his dedication to people with developmental disabilities. He served as president of LARC for 11 years, and he founded and conducted the LARC swim program and coached the LARC Olympic Swim Team. Each year the LARC Board of Directors presents the Ted Sailor Humanitarian award to someone who demonstrates unending dedication to the organization’s mission. LARC and the Village of Lansing honored him with the new street located near 182nd and Oakley.
Honorary Bob Malkas Drive. Bob Malkas was Lansing Municipal Airport’s director for 23 years, retiring in 2008. His name is now on the street sign with access from Burnham Avenue that leads to the airport offices, so the office address is now 3250 Bob Malkas Drive. The honorary drive was dedicated in September 2011 by Mayor Norm Abbott.
Honorary William Kraegel Drive. The block-long street called Glen Terrace leading to Trinity Lutheran School is also known as William Kraegel Drive, honoring one of the most important persons in the church and school’s history. Kraegel served as teacher/principal for 48 years. He also served as church organist, Sunday School superintendent, choir director, Bible class teacher, congregational secretary, youth leader, piano teacher, and director of plays and musicals. Kraegel came to the school in 1914 and retired in 1962 at age 71.The sign was dedicated in January 2004.
Some roads are named for the nearby topography, such as Ridge Road, which was a natural sandy ridge providing a trail used by Native Americans and later a stagecoach road for early settlers. State Line Avenue or State Line Road is obviously the dividing line between two states, Illinois and Indiana. Railroad Avenue is another unimaginative name; it designates a street adjacent to the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. Although the railroad tracks are long gone, Railroad Avenue remains.
Bernadine Street is a north/south road one block west of Wentworth Avenue. The street runs from the Calumet City line on the north to 191st Street on the south with several breaks in-between.
I never did find out who Bernadine was.
Then there is Bernardine Lane (with an “r”). It also is one block west of Wentworth and runs from 192nd Place to 193rd Street. Is that a misspelling, or was there a Bernardine and a Bernadine?
Five Lansing streets are named for U.S. presidents: Jackson, Adams, Monroe, Madison, and Washington. They run east/west and are located north of Ridge Road, and run between Burnham and Maple Street. Heading south, the next street is Randolph Street, which could have been copycatted from Chicago. If that is true, Randolph Street could be named after Edmund Randolph (1753–1813), Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General. Continuing south, the next street is Lake Street, though there is no lake along it in Lansing.
An interesting note: The same streets from Lake to Jackson are placed in an identical sequence in Chicago, but they are found in the reverse order, with Lake Street being the northernmost road, and Jackson being the southernmost.
Lansing’s tree-named streets include Maple Street on the east side of town, one block west of State Line running from Ridge Road north to 176th Street. It becomes Maple Avenue as it curves along the 80/94 Expressway.
Oak Avenue and Oak Street are split, the first going from 186th north to 184th Street between Oakley and Arcadia. Oak Avenue picks up again north of Ridge Road and runs from Indiana Avenue to Lan Oak Park. Oak Street, meanwhile, is a short street that runs south directly off of Ridge Road one block west of Village Hall.
Other tree names include Hickory, Willow, Cherry, Fern, Rosewood, Wildwood, and Locust. There are also two Forests: Forest Court on the west side of town and Forest Lane south of 190th Street.
The three-mile-long Tri-State Expressway opened to traffic on November 1, 1950. It was renamed the Kingery Expressway in 1953, two years after the death of Robert Kingery, who was a former director of Illinois Public Works, a regional director for the Chicago Regional Planning Association, and a proponent of the current northeastern Illinois tollway configuration. The expressway was rebuilt in 2005-2007 to add traffic lanes and better accommodate the large amount of truck traffic that travels between Chicago and all points east and southeast.
Completed in July 2007, this time it was renamed the Frank Borman Expressway after a local hero of the Air Force and NASA, Frank Borman — who was born in Gary, Indiana. Coming from the west, the Frank Borman Expressway name starts as I-94 joins with I-80 at the border of South Holland and Lansing. The Frank Borman name ends as the Indiana toll road begins, near Lake Station, Indiana.
Torrence Avenue was named after former Civil War general Joseph T. Torrence. During the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, there was considerable rioting in a number of cities (including Chicago) as workers protested labor conditions, especially the fact that the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had just cut wages for the third time. Gen. Torrence led the Chicago militia at that time, as the city tried to restore order. In the 1880s Torrence was known as Yates Avenue.
The Village of Burnham was named for Telford Burnham who drew its plat, not Chicago city planner and architect Daniel Burnham, as is widely assumed. Burnham Avenue is known as Avenue O in Chicago.
Wentworth Avenue is named for John Wentworth, known as “Long John Wentworth” (1815-1888). Born in Sandwich, New Hampshire, he arrived in Chicago in 1836. He became managing editor of Chicago’s first newspaper, the Chicago Democrat, eventually becoming its owner and publisher. He was a two-term mayor of Chicago and six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and served on the Board of Education. Wentworth was first known as Church Street.
Lansing street names help tell the story of Lansing. The names of our early settlers, business owners, and civic leaders are posted on signs and maps to remind us of the people who came here to make a new life and build a new community. The wagon trails and farmland have been replaced with asphalt and subdivisions, but Lansing’s new generations are not that different from the Schultz, Bock, and Ton families who gave us our start. New businesses line our old streets. New families play in our historic parks. And Lansing continues to grow and change, just as it always has.
Great Job! Great work!
Thank you, Marlene. As usual, this is a great article on Lansing’s history. It is entirely possible that, when Lake Street was named, the was a shoreline at Lake Street because, geologically, there were three “beaches” created by the water that covered the land in much earlier timers. These three geologic beaches were called Tolleston Beach, Calumet Beach and Glenwood Beach.
You seem to have forgotten Escanaba ave among others streets.
Rafael, I wish we could have included all Lansing streets— especially Escanaba, because that’s the street I grew up on! Since Marlene is our Lansing history writer, we asked her to focus on the streets that are named after people in Lansing’s history. She added a few other items as a bonus.
Great story, I learned a lot that I did not know. I found out a lot about my neighborhood and the street names in it . Keep up the good work Melanie and Josh!
These history articles are fascinating. Keep up the good work. Hope that you can keep adding to our knowledge about this area. Lan Oak park article was fantastic also. I have passed that story on to friends far and near!
This is a terrific article, thank you for doing it. Growing up, I wondered from time to time where some of those street names originated.
It was great to learn about the street names in the Village I grew up in! I believe that Escanaba, Exchange and Commercial are all streets in Chicago. Anyone have any info on this fact? I also enjoyed the LanOak Park story that had appeared in the Lansing Journal earlier this year.
Always enjoy learning about the town history. Thanks for the extensively researched article Marlene. Great job.🤩
Wow this is great history information thank you so much 💖!!! Gerald Gaskew!!!
It’s actually Violet Road. Not Street.
Thank you, Cheryl! I made the correction above.
Great job! I was especially heartened to see Fern Street (even though it is not really a tree) mentioned, as my family was one of three that lived on Fern although none of us had a Fern Street address. Nobody knew where Fern Street is/was, even those that lived 2 doors away. I don’t believe there ever was a street sign, but in my youth, our wooded yards and the railroad ditch along the tracks across the street were smothered with ferns.
Great article! Thank you for your work and research on it! I’m sharing it with my mom who grew up in Lansing back in the 40’s and lived there with my dad, my sisters and I until the mid 80’s.
Great article, very informative; looking forward to reading more.
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