LINCOLN PARK — The city is renaming a stretch of Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park after Dan O’Donnell, an influential businessman and property owner who helped revitalize the area and died earlier this year.
The 900 block of West Armitage Avenue will now be known as “Dan O’Donnell Way,” according to the ordinance, which passed City Council on Wednesday with no discussion.
O’Donnell died Jan. 19 after a boating trip with one of his sons in Florida. He suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and died peacefully back ashore, his son said. O’Donnell was 80 years old.
O’Donnell owned Armitage Hardware at 925 W. Armitage Ave. and was known by neighbors as a leader to the commercial strip and community surrounding the Armitage Brown Line stop.
He and his wife invested in Lincoln Park in the ’60s and ’70s, buying buildings and restoring their historical properties. They built a home in the top suite of their hardware store’s building.
“My dad was heavily involved in the development of Lincoln Park and all the neighborhood groups,” his son, Brian O’Donnell, said in a previous interview. “He also had good relationships with the local gangs and would get them to help out on neighborhood projects like revitalizing the Armitage CTA station.”
O’Donnell was also heavily involved in helping Irish exchange students get acclimated to the city when they’d visit for the summer.
It started in 1997 when he ran into a small group of Irish kids sitting on their luggage across the street from his hardware store. He found they had no jobs, no money and no place to stay and hooked them up with shelter and jobs at the hardware store.
The next year, those students returned with their friends. And each year the group of kids who would show up at his hardware store looking for jobs and help getting acclimated to the city would grow. Over the years, O’Donnell helped more than 16,000 Irish exchange students find their footing in Chicago while on summer visas, his son said.
“Now when the kids come in from Ireland for the visa program, they’re going to see those [Dan O’Donnell Way] signs and know they’ve made it to the hardware store in Lincoln Park,” Brian O’Donnell said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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