Sherman Avenue: home of Unicorn Café, Nevin’s Pub, the namesake of NU’s premier satirical publication and … Guantanamo Bay? A meticulous investigative report by the NBN staff recently uncovered that our beloved college town’s main street shares a name with the main thoroughfare of arguably the most hated piece of American real estate. Coincidence? We decided to find out.
Evanston’s Sherman Avenue is named after Alson S. Sherman, the first vice president of Northwestern, and also one of its founders. He never actually lived in Evanston, though. Sherman was the eighth mayor of Chicago, serving from 1844 to 1845. And while in office, he did more than just twiddle his thumbs and make back-channel deals (Windy City politics, am I right?). Sherman created the city’s first sawmill and served as Chicago’s first iceman (a real profession). He also raised 14 little Shermans with his wife Aurora Abbott.
So what does an ice-loving father of 14 have to do with Gitmo? It turns out, nothing. The Sherman Avenue that runs through the Guantanamo Bay military base is named for another Sherman, U.S. Naval Admiral Forrest Percival Sherman, a celebrated war hero and the namesake of the Forrest Sherman-class destroyer ship. Sherman graduated from the Naval Academy just before World War I, which commenced a long, decorated career in the military. He helped author America’s “Victory Plan of 1941,” served as the youngest Chief of Naval Operations of his time and earned more than a dozen stars, merits and medals. After he and his wife visited Guantanamo Bay in 1950, the powers at be probably couldn’t contain their excitement to name the base’s main road after him. Yet another shining star to add to his legacy.
Two streets, two men, one name. It’s a bit of a relief to know that the road where we go to buy our groceries from CVS has nothing to do with a military prison in Cuba. For now, we can rest easy knowing that our Sherman Avenue has a clean history. But let this be a lesson: our streets, our monuments and our buildings all have their own stories. It’s worth doing a little research.