“Main Street is the climax of civilization.” — Sinclair Lewis
Of course, he was writing a book called “Main Street,” and at that time, in 1920, before shopping malls, Main Streets were king.
But even back then, not all main streets were called Main. While Belleville’s Main Street runs for miles through the town and is packed with businesses, churches and residences, some other towns are different, like Lebanon, where Main Street is a block south of the main drag, St. Louis Street.
I never thought about it until one day while I was trying to get somewhere in O’Fallon. Someone had told me that what I was looking for was on Main Street. But he meant the main street, or the main drag, which is more likely State Street.
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As I was driving on West U.S. 50, just after crossing over Interstate 64, I suddenly saw a sign proclaiming “Main Street,” so I turned right onto what turned out to be a pleasant residential street that came to a dead end after about a half-mile. Not exactly where I was heading.
Main Street in O’Fallon is just to the east of and roughly parallel to an odd stretch of Interstate 64 which curves to run south and north. Main Street goes from West U.S. 50 to nowhere. It dead-ends at Carr Street, about where St. Elizabeth’s is building its new hospital. There are a few cross streets that also are dead ends, some nice houses and no businesses unless you count the car dealers on the highway.
Brian Keller, president of the O’Fallon Historical Society, explained why Main Street is so far away from the downtown business district, although a lot of business is spreading back along West U.S. 50 to surround Main.
There once was a Main Street in downtown O’Fallon, but the street name was changed almost 100 years, ago.
“Actually North Lincoln Avenue used to be North Main Street,” Keller said. “What now is South Lincoln Avenue used to be Depot Street. There was no South Main Street for whatever reason. I don’t know what they were thinking.”
But out west a mile or so in the Glenview subdivision, where West U.S. 50 crosses Interstate 64, there is a Main Street.
The subdivision probably dates from the 1940s, but the area was annexed into O’Fallon in the 1950s or ‘60s, relatively lately, Keller said.
The area has a few interesting historical tidbits.
“Carr Street, at the end of Main Street, used to be Car Street,” he said. “It was part of the old trolley car line.”
The 1938 tornado that killed eight people in Belleville also roared through Glenview, killing two people, Albert and Lucy Weaver.
Keller said an inn in that area was destroyed and the owners rebuilt it.
“They renamed it the Tornado Inn,” he said.