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A (Very) Quick Tour of Chicago's Shortest Streets

A city that boasts of broad shoulders and big boulevards, Chicago celebrates superlative roadways such as Lower Wacker and Lake Shore Drive that give the city character and something unique. The alleys, avenues and streets on the other end of the size spectrum, tiny roads that barely register on the map, or courts closer in size to a coach house, may seem to exist only as a way to confuse cab drivers. But, whether their existence is due to an oddity of urban planning or the introduction of an expressway, Chicago's shortest streets do have interesting bios, abbreviated, of course, as you may expect.

Despite the uniformity imposed over much of the city via the grid system, Chicago still has plenty of outliers and bureaucratic anomalies. Consider Academy Court, the city's narrowest street, according to the Chicago History Museum, a glorified alley in the West Loop that's just 10 feet wide.

But the true title of shortest street is a subject of some debate, as well as a few attempts to measure distance, step-by-step. The longread of Chicago short street journalism, Serhii Chrucky's Tiny Street article for Forgotten Chicago, examines many of the city's tiny thoroughfares, from small courts to double-wide alleys. After dismissing pretenders such as Peshtigo Court, the block-long bit of asphalt in Streeterville best known for being a road you cross on the way to Navy Pier, Chrucky pinpoints a series of miniscule thoroughfares in Bridgeport that were created when the Stevenson was built and bisected the neighborhood in the '60s. He narrowed down the search for the shortest street to Hoey and McDermott streets, bestowing the title on McDermott because it has just eight official address points to Hoey's 10.

But that may not be the final word. According to WBEZ reporter John R. Schmidt, who went medieval on the issue -- by that we mean measured distances by pacing off down each street -- he found that McDermott, at 112 feet, was longer than Hoey, which measured 91 feet.

We contacted businesses located on the corner of these contending streets, Salmart Autobody (Hoey and Mary streets) and Five Star Mobile Electronics (Archer Avenue and McDermott Street). Frankly, all we got was a bit of befuddlement -- "yeah, it's a short street, but there are a lot of short streets around here," said someone at Salmart. Neither could provide any background on the street names (for the record, McDermott may have been named after Michael McDermott, a civil engineer and contractor of the 'L' stations in the city, and Hoey was named after "subdivider" Thomas Hoey, another example of a real-estate developer looking to leave his mark). Both the business owners also had no idea which was actually shorter; all they knew was that both were great spots to park their cars.

·Micro Week archives [Curbed Chicago]