Housing Guide 2011: What’s in a Name

Ever been to a party at the Toolshed? Had pancakes at the Shtetl? Got down and dirty with some wrestlers at the Unit? Are you thinking these places may be the newest North Side dance-pancake-boxing fusion joint? Believe it or not, you likely walk by some of these places everyday. They are, in fact, the names of several Hyde Park apartments. Unlike the official names of the housing system, however, these names are not merely accepted–they’re created. There has been much discussion about how the Pepperland, a MAC apartment on 57th street, managed to develop its original calling card. But what about the other words that differentiate the often monotonous apartment buildings of Hyde Park? The Bakery, the Lil’ H, the Shire, and Kimbark Kongress are a few these names working to differentiate 3B in that apartment from 3B in this apartment.

So should you name your own apartment? And, more importantly, how do you go about it? After talking to a few of the boys lucky enough to call the Toolshed home, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is almost no shred of legitimate sense behind these christenings (rumor is the toolshed got its name when a resident was too drunk to call someone a “tool” and said “toolshed” instead). It’s true that places like Lil’ H, housing for ex-members of the UofC’s Henderson House, have an understandable history. Many of these names, however, mean nothing. And yet, even when they’re perplexingly vague, many stick.

Despite the random nature of it, I’d have to suggest that you go with whatever feels right. Names are personal. Names are good. Names can also be bad. The Toolshed is charming. The Shtetl is slightly mysterious. Your home can be whatever you want it to be, just make sure the spirit matches the name.

The Toolshed boys, as it turn out, will be moving into the Shtetl next year. When I asked them about it, I waited to see what they’d be christening their new crib-with-the-nicer-floor plan. It’s true that in hindsight, I probably could have guessed it myself. “Uhhh,” said one of them, smiling with the contentment of a kid with a very good idea, “The Toolshtetl!”

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