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Kimball Has Been Misspelled for More Than 100 Years: It's KimBELL

By  Patty Wetli and Paul Biasco | February 18, 2016 8:38am | Updated on February 18, 2016 5:57pm

ALBANY PARK — We've all made our share of typos — "your" vs. "you're" anyone? — that can easily be fixed these days with a backspace or two, but in the dark ages before spell check, the city made a whopper of a misspelling that's gone uncorrected for more than 100 years.

Kimball Avenue is supposed to be Kimbell. With an "e."

Martin Kimbell was an early settler of what's now Logan Square, his farm centered at Kimball, Diversey and Milwaukee.

A photo of Martin Kimbell, early settler of Logan Square, whose name should be on street signs and CTA buses and trains. [Image provided by Kimbell's great-great grandson, Kevin Watts]

When Chicago annexed the land in 1889, existing streets were relabeled and what had been Kimbell was mistakenly entered into the record as Kimball, according to the Chicago History Museum's database of the city's streets.

Muddying the waters: There is a famous Kimball associated with early Chicago history.

DNAinfo reporter Patty Wetli explains how Kimbell's name ended up across Chicago as "Kimball":

William Wallace Kimball founded the Kimball Piano Co., still doing business today as Kimball International, having branched out into office furniture and electronics. Anyone who's visited Graceland Cemetery has likely seen his massive tomb, and his South Prairie Avenue mansion still stands.

But even Wikipedia considers it "dubious" that Kimball Avenue was named for William Kimball.

Though the goof has stood for more than 100 years, at least one person attempted to make things right.

A history of Logan Square, as quoted in a 2007 Reader account of the neighborhood's origins, notes that Martin Kimbell's son Charles "was so incensed by the altered spelling that he went out in his horse-drawn wagon, paintbrush and bucket in hand, and reinserted the 'e' in Kimbell on every street sign from Armitage to Diversey."

Now that Kimball stretches all the way north to Lincolnwood and serves as the terminus for the CTA Brown Line, well, Charles Kimbell would need a whole lot more paint.

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