Yellow Street Signs
by Serhii Chrucky and Jacob Kaplan

While other large old cities (especially New York) seemingly have many remnants from different eras of street signage, the “city that works” has been relentless in replacing old street signs. Before the 1970s, Chicago’s street signs were awash in a distinctive yellow color with black text. These well known and loved signs symbolized an era of Chicago just as the ubiquitous green signs do the present. However, when the city began replacing them with the green signs in the 1970s, it appeared that they left no corner untouched. Your webmasters became well aware of this fact in high school, when we began our search for the elusive yellow sign. In a city as big as Chicago there had to be at least one old sign the city had neglected to replace, or so we thought.

During our weekend drives exploring the city, we would always keep an eye out for one. However, the quest began to seem futile. We had driven through every neighborhood of the city and on almost every major street, but had yet to spot one. Had the city really replaced every yellow street sign? They hadn’t missed even one? Eventually, we came to terms with the fact that they might have, but we never gave up hope. We surmised that if a yellow sign still existed, it would either be on a residential street or a backwater industrial area, somewhere on the edges of the city. We scoured the most out of the way industrial streets around Lake Calumet but turned up nothing. At this point we basically gave up, but not without making a promise to throw a big party if we ever happened to find a yellow sign.

Years later, it happened. We were driving around the far south side for no particular reason and decided to go take a look at the neighborhood that backs up to the Calumet River south of 127th street and east of Halsted. While we had driven down 127th before, we had never actually driven through this particular neighborhood. We made a left from 127th onto Parnell, and we both just happened to look to our left as we crossed 127th place. We noticed something that looked like a yellow sign, but quickly thought “naw, it couldn’t be”, and kept driving. We had only driven a few feet, however, when we both looked at each other and decided to turn around and take a closer look. Hearts pumping, we drove around the block and we saw it. There it was! It was unbelievable, but there it was! The city had actually forgotten to replace two yellow signs marking the intersection of 127th place and Eggleston. Our feeling of pure joy at that moment is indescribable. Perhaps the reason it wasn’t replaced is that Eggleston doesn’t exist anymore at this spot, being replaced by a bike path. In any event, the quest was over. Or is it? There has to be at least one more yellow sign somewhere in the city…




UPDATE: Driving around in the vast Crawford Industrial Park amidst kids on ATVs, we happened upon not one, but two yellows at once! Both of them, on opposite sides of the intersection of 44th and Kildare, are for Kildare Boulevard. The weird thing is, Kildare is signed as an avenue on the new signs at this intersection, and most everywhere else.

The thing is, trucks are not allowed on boulevards. One wonders why the city would have (or have had) one in an industrial park of all places. The boulevard/avenue issue aside, these signs differ from the Eggleston sign in that they describe a still-extant through street. We can’t imagine why they are still there, other than having been truly forgotten about.

UPDATE #2: Another yellow sign has been spotted by one of our attentive readers. Eric Nudel wrote in to tell us that he found a yellow sign using Google Street View. The sign is at 128th Street and Eggleston, only a block south of the one we found at 127th Place and Eggleston.

In this case, the sign for Eggleston on the pole was replaced with a green one, yet the sign for 128th Street was kept yellow. This is especially strange, considering that Eggleston no longer exists in the area. We thank Eric for contributing to the yellow sign search, and of course, we still hope to find more remaining yellow signs.



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