The Story Behind Halsted St
Western Avenue is often thought of as the spinal cord of Chicago running north/south through the center of our great city. Two miles east of Western we encounter another important local thoroughfare: Halsted St. Unlike Western, with its doubled laned traffic and warehouse vistas, Halsted St. is known for its quaint shops, its pedestrian foot traffic and its entertaining denizens. Locally, current Bport residents think of Halsted as home to the police station, the Daley library and the Ramova Grill. While old time Bport dwellers fondly recall Halsted for its former hot spots: Governors Table, McCrory’s, the Communist Bookstore, Lots for Less, Fayva, Night Moves and “the Jewel’s”.
With that being said we thought it important to investigate the origins of the street name itself: Halsted St. At first we discovered William Stewart Halsted a famous surgeon who lived from 1852 to 1922 and lectured at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Halsted, it seems, was legendary for performing aggressive surgeries to treat cancer in his patients. He is credited with introducing the radical mastectomy and other types of cancer surgeries that extricated not only known cancerous tumors but also the surrounding areas as well where the cancer may have metastasized. Dr. Halsted was also a trailblazer in the field of antisepsis realizing the importance of a sanitary environment when performing surgery.
Dr. Halsted’s downfall occurred when he began using cocaine as an anesthesia for his patients and then as a drug for himself. Like many residents on Halsted who prefer a 24 hour lifestyle William Halsted found cocaine allowed him to work hour upon hour with very little sleep and he slowly became addicted to the white horse. Eventually he moved on to morphine to end his cocaine addiction and became a hermit who lived boarded up in his home with only his medical books and journals.
While his career was brilliant and eccentric it still seemed strange that a street in Chicago would be named after a east coast physician so we dug a bit deeper. Our further research discovered that Halsted’s grandfather acted as an agent investing large sums of money for east coast investors in Chicago real estate transactions with the newly arrived settlers to our city. These transactions were made in cahoots with a distant cousin named William B Ogden who later became the first mayor of Chicago. The property dealings made the senior Halsted a very wealthy man and he eventually ceded some of his holdings to the newly incorporated city. In return for his generosity Mayor Ogden changed the name of Dior St to Halsted St and thus we have the answer to our inquiry.