Why do we call it ‘Five Points’?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

A few weeks ago, a Pekin Public Library patron asked two “pointed” questions: Why is the V-intersection of Court Street and Broadway, located on the north side of Broadway from St. Joseph Catholic Church, called “Five Points”? And when did it get its name?

To learn the answers to those questions, we turned to Lou Klockenga of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. The answers have to do the layout of that intersection in the past, Klockenga said.

As we’ve noted in this column previously, the streets in the original town of Pekin run parallel and perpendicularly with the Illinois River, but the streets in the rest of Pekin run along a simple north-south-east-west grid. That creates peculiar intersections where the original town’s streets meet the later gridwork.

At Five Points, the intersection was especially complicated, with Court Street cutting across Broadway at a spot where Seventh Street met both Court and Broadway. South of Broadway, Seventh Street runs north and south, but north of Broadway, it angles to the east, running northeast and southwest.

With streets shooting off in several directions, Pekin residents apparently took to calling the intersection “Five Points.”

There was only one difficulty with that moniker, Klockenga said. “It was actually six points when you counted the streets.”

Indeed, old Pekin maps show that if one were to stand in the middle of “Five Points” looking west down Broadway and then do a 360-degree clockwise turn, he would see Court Street heading northwest, then Seventh Street heading northeast, then Broadway heading east, then Court Street heading southeast, and finally Seventh Street heading south.

Six points, not five.

This detail from a mid-20th century map of Pekin's city streets shows the "Five Points" area, where three streets intersected: Court, Broadway, and Seventh.

This detail from a mid-20th century map of Pekin’s city streets shows the “Five Points” area, where three streets intersected: Court, Broadway, and Seventh.

So, why “five” points? We can only guess that the intersection made people think of a star, which is typically represented as having five points. Perhaps by “Five Points,” they really meant, “That crazy star intersection where Court and Broadway and Seventh all come together.”

In any case, the name has stuck, and Pekin residents still call it “Five Points” even though, as Klockenga commented, “That intersection has been reworked.” To eliminate the tangled mess of traffic at Five Points, during the 1980s the city closed off Seventh Street at Broadway on the south and sealed off Seventh on the north as well, so Seventh no longer intersects with Broadway at all. Instead, south of Broadway, Seventh ends in a cul-de-sac at the St. Joseph Church entrance, and to the north Seventh intersects with Margaret Street but extends no further. In closing off Seventh on the south side of Broadway, Court Street was interrupted, dog-legging a short way eastbound along Broadway to a traffic-light-regulated intersection at Margaret, while westbound traffic on Court is routed up to Broadway via Eighth Street on the east side of St. John’s Lutheran Church.

It’s unknown when this intersection first got its name, but it was certainly prior to 1955. We know that’s the case because the 1955 Pekin City directory lists the nearby “Five Point Tavern” (sic) at 623 Court St., owned and operated by Louis M. Friedrich. The tavern does not appear in the 1952 directories or earlier (the Local History Room collection does not include city directories for 1953 and 1954).

In 1956, Friedrich’s tavern is listed as “Five Points Tavern,” and then in 1959 the city directory shows that Friedrich had changed his tavern’s name to “Five Points Buffet.” Friedrich continued to operate the Five Points Buffet until 1969, when the city directory listing for 623 Court St. includes both Friedrich’s Five Points Buffet and Jimmy L. Walker’s Five Point Barber Shop (plural “Points” for the buffet/tavern but singular “Point” for the barbershop).

The following year, in the 1970 directory, the barbershop appears alone – Friedrich’s buffet/tavern had been closed. But in 1971 the barbershop was gone, and Donald L. Sanders reopened the buffet/tavern under the name “Five Point Buffet.” The tavern continued under that name until it closed in or around 1984, the last year it appears in the Pekin city directory. The tavern’s proprietorship changed hands several times during those years, though: Sanders (1971-1973), Dale D. McCarty (1974-1976), Carl Long (1977-1980), Ronald L. and Donna Krause (1981-1982), and finally Donna G. Geiler (1983-1984).

After 1984, though, the tavern’s name was changed to Mickey’s Irish Pub, which was operated by Sharon Bushong until about 1989. The former Five Points tavern building has since been demolished and is now a parking lot. But the intersection for which the tavern was named is still known as Five Points.

This 1912 photograph, reproduced in Herget National Bank of Pekin's 1998 Historical Calendar, shows a view of Court Street in Pekin looking west from the Five Points intersection.

This 1912 photograph, reproduced in Herget National Bank of Pekin’s 1998 Historical Calendar, shows a view of Court Street in Pekin looking west from the Five Points intersection.

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