Friday, November 2, 2012


When people first started using roads the roads were not named.  They were just trails through the woods or to the pass through the mountains. As time went on, the roads had names that told where they were: Center Street, North Street, Lake Street, or the way they were laid out: "The street called Straight" from the Bible.  As towns grew up, the streets were often named after the first people to settle there:  Rand, Happ, Rogers, Ouilmette (Wilmette).  As more and more people settled into an area, the town fathers had to broaden their list of acceptable names for roads, so they started naming them after politicians or patriots:  Washington, Van Buren, Franklin.  After awhile they even ran out of names of famous people they could use, so developers often used names from their own families.

As you travel on local streets, do you ever wonder who they were named for?  Evanston, Illinois was  originally settled by Methodists so many of the streets were named after Methodist clergy: Asbury, Wesley, Garrett.  The streets of South Evanston were named after settlers or land developers:  Mulford, Rinn, Brummel, Dobson.  But there is one street in the area, whose namesake will surprise you:  Howard Street (formerly Howard Avenue).  Howard serves as the border between the city of Chicago (community areas of Rogers Park and West Ridge) and the city of Evanston.  It runs intermittently through several north and northwestern suburbs, near O'Hare International Airport, and finally terminates at Ridge Avenue in Elk Grove Village.

Who do you think Howard Street was named for?  A list of famous people with the last name of Howard gives us such names as Trevor Howard, Leslie Howard, or even the ever-famous Three Stooges:  Moe, Larry and Curly Howard.  When I was a child I think my older brother tried to convince me that Howard Street was named after the Three Stooges, but that is not the case.  In fact, Howard Street was not named after someone with the last name of Howard at all, it was named after someone with the first name of Howard - namely Howard J. Ure.

Who was Howard J. Ure and why was a street named after him?  Let's find out.

Howard J. Ure came from a family of early settlers to the area known as Rogers Park.  His grandfather, John Calder Ure, had moved to Chicago as a youth from his native Scotland and settled permanently in the Village of Rogers Park, buying up large tracts of land, some of which he planted for his use as a landscaper and florist.  He moved to 17 acres at the present day southeast corner of Howard Street and Clark Street in 1852.  John Calder Ure was married 4 times, and had a total of ten children, one of whom was his son, John Francis Ure.  John Francis Ure was born in 1869 in Rogers Park to John Calder Ure and his wife Margaret, nee Keyes.

John Francis Ure as an adult lived in Rogers Park on a farm between Rogers and Birchwood, east of Clark and operated a dairy business on this site.  He also helped convince the Village of Rogers Park to be incorporated in to the City of Chicago.  Rogers Park wanted to have the benefit of police and fire protection that incorporating into the City would provide.  As a part of that deal, in 1897 John donated the land east of Clark Street that is now Howard Street to the City of Chicago that they wanted for east/west access to Lake Michigan and in gratitude, the City of Chicago offered John the chance to name the street.  He agreed and named the street after his son, Howard Ure and so, the street dividing Chicago from Evanston became not Ure Avenue, but Howard Avenue.

John Calder Ure did not die until 1905, so he could have been involved in the Chicago transaction, but he gave his property at Howard and Clark to his wife Margaret at their divorce in 1871, and she gave it to her two sons John Francis Ure and Robert Arnold Ure when she died in 1889.

Howard J. Ure was actually born John James Ure on January 13, 1896 at 5138 (now 7527) N. Clark Street to John Francis Ure and his wife Sarah (nee Carney).  His parents already had a daughter, Ruth, born 2 years before.

John F. Ure listed his occupation as "Dairyman".  By the 1900 census John James Ure was known as John H. Ure and by the 1910 census as Howard J. Ure.  Why was baby John James Ure's name changed to Howard J. Ure?  The answer is lost in the mists of time, but Howard was not a common name among the Irish or Catholics of that time.

Although John Calder Ure was a Scots Presbyterian, he sent all his children to Catholic schools, and finally converted to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1905.  Unlike his son John Francis, and his grandson Howard who are buried in All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois, John Calder Ure is buried in Rosehill Cemetery:

In 1908 the Howard Avenue stop for the elevated trains (the "el") was opened in combination with the Chicago and Northwestern train station and the terminal for the Clark Street surface lines.  Howard quickly became a transportation hub and development of land along Howard started a land boom in the area.

One of the earliest building constructed on Howard was the Howard Theatre, built on part of the former Ure farm in 1918:

What was Howard Ure doing during this land boom along the street that carried his name?  After a stint in the military during World War I, Howard joined his father, who by that time had traded farming for land development.  Their first major project was the development of the Norshore Theatre building at 1749 W. Howard Avenue for Balaban and Katz.  The Norshore opened for business on June 17, 1926.  

The palatial Norshore Theatre seated 3,017.  Its outer lobby featured huge crystal chandeliers and the ceiling was decorated with Pompeiian motifs.  The theater also contained fine French antiques.

John Francis Ure did not live long after the opening of the Norshore - he died in a car accident on November 25, 1927.

Through the years Howard Ure remained active in the life of Howard Street.  He was one of the original members of the Howard District Business Men's Association and became a director of the Howard Avenue Trust and Savings Bank at the early age of 26.  Between 1953 and 1973, he served as a director of the North Shore National Bank of Chicago  But Howard Ure is probably best remembered as a restaurateur.  He opened and operated the Grill Restaurant, and the Ship Restaurant which was located in the Norshore Theatre building.

Postcard courtesy

Unfortunately the Norshore Theatre building including the Ship Restaurant was razed in 1960.  I remember it well because my Mother used to shop at Davidson's Bakery across the street from the Norshore Theatre, and we used to park the car and walk over to the bakery right past the theatre every week.  In my mind's eye I can see it like it was yesterday (a little scary to think it was 52 years ago!).  I also remember that the scaffolding, the noise and the flames from the blowtorches used to scare me to death every time we went by.  I was afraid that the remains of the theatre were going to topple over on us as we walked by.  Not a chance - the building was so well built they literally had to take it apart with blowtorches, piece by piece.  Further east on Howard, the skeleton of the Howard Theatre is still there but it is being used as a shopping mall.

Howard Ure and his wife, the former Herdis Elizabeth Brink (1907-1998) spent most of their married life in Rogers Park at 1525 W. Birchwood:

1525 W. Birchwood, Chicago
Howard Ure was involved in Rogers Park affairs until his death in 1984 at the age of 88.  Here's a photo of him taken in front of his birthplace on Clark Street in the 1970s.  

The Chicago Tribune of November 18, 1984 noted the death of Howard J. Ure on November 16:

As I mentioned above, Howard J. Ure was buried in the family plot at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois:

So, that's the story of how Howard Street got its name.  The next time you are on Howard, say a prayer for the Ure family, Rogers Park pioneers.

May Howard J. Ure, for whom Howard Street was named, and all the Ure family rest in peace.

(all photos from author's collection unless otherwise noted)


  1. Hi Susan -

    The last I heard, Howard Ure Jr. was living in Glenview. He would be close to 80 now. David Calder Ure is younger than Howard Jr. and I believe is still in the Chicago area as well, although both may have retired to warmer climes. Thanks for your kind words. I'll keep digging!

  2. I lived in Evanston in the late '70s, and I had no idea that Howard Street was named for someone who was still alive at the time! I saw a picture of the Norshore from just before its demolition and was curious about what kind of business "The Ship" might have been. Thanks for clearing that up and then some.

    1. Just came across this and had to respond. My father is Howard Ure Jr. His father was Howard Ure Sr. my grandfather. My dad is alive and well living in Glenview Illinois. He has a younger brother (my uncle) that lives in the North Shore area. I have two older brothers. One living in California working for Walt Disney as an animator and story board writer and the other resides in Aurora Illinois. I currently live in Barrington Illinois and have two teenage boys. My dad spent a lot of time at his fathers restaurant "The Ship" growing up. He has all sorts of great stories and memories he brings up from time to time. I was 12 years old when my grandfather passed away. I was fortunate enough to spend summers with my grand parents and family at my grandparents place in Sarasota Florida while growing up. Those were great times and I will always cherish that. I appreciate the great article.


      John Ure

  3. Great article... based on thoughtful original research and it seems to clearly be the leading reference on Howard Street!

    I have a walking club which will be honoring Howard Ure's 118th birthday in January, by walking the entire length of Howard Street from west to east (see Though his birthday is on the 13th, we'll be observing it on Sunday January 12th. Hope you or some of the Ure family can join us!

  4. An update: the Howard Theater was demolished in 1999 after years of neglect, but the long gallery building that fronted the theater along Howard St. was completely gutted and made into rental housing; the lobby was kept and restored, as well, but is currently closed. With the recent real estate boom, the area is becoming quite active.