George Wellington “Cap’n” Streeter

George Wellington “Cap’n” Streeter, 2010
Dennis Downes
Corner of McClurg Court and Grand Avenue

            Streeterville is a neighborhood bounded by Oak Street to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Rush Street to the west and the Chicago River to the south. Located only a few blocks north of the river is an 8-foot bronze sculpture commemorating the man after whom the neighborhood takes its name. He is shown in period clothing and holding his dog Spot, the terrier featured in photographs of Streeter from 1915. Streeter was a colorful character who, during a storm in 1886, ran his boat aground near the intersection of what is now East Superior Street and North Fairbanks Court, in an area known as “the Sands.”
            Streeter claimed that his grounded ship created the land and, thus, it was outside of the jurisdiction of Illinois. He began calling it “The District of Lake Michigan,” took up residence and then subdivided the land and sold lots. Wealthy landowners around the area worried the shantytown area would lower their property values and fought in court to abolish it.  Police successfully stopped Streeter after he raised an army and created a blockade to try and save the land he claimed as his own. In 1918 the court ruled that his claims of ownership were invalid.
            In 1921, the year Streeter died, the Michigan Avenue Bridge opened and led to a commercial development boom that made “Streeterville” the most prime real estate in the city. This sculpture was commissioned by Golub & Company, a real estate and investment firm that owns and manages the John Hancock Center, one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the neighborhood.

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