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By Anna Lothson
Since Frank Lloyd Wright has his own district in Oak Park, it's only fitting Ernest Hemingway should too.
Now, with the blessing of Hemingway's family and the local foundation that carries his name, The Avenue Business Association has voted to change its name to The Hemingway District. The decision was announced Tuesday at the organization's annual meeting which was held at the Hemingway Museum in the Oak Park Arts Center on Oak Park Avenue.
Brandy Masoncup, co-owner of Geppetto's Toy Box and the former Avenue president, said taking the Hemingway name is part of a larger effort to connect the three business districts in the downtown area — Downtown Oak Park, The Avenue and The Pleasant District. Just last year The Pleasant District changed its name from South Marion to better connect to its historic roots near Pleasant Home and Mills Park. The goal is to create a stronger link to Oak Park's past.
"We have such a rich, cultural heritage in Oak Park, and we weren't really connecting to it," she said. "All three districts had connections to history in their backyard. Not a lot of people knew of our area as The Avenue. We are very, very fortunate to have a premiere organization (The Ernest Hemingway Foundation) in our district."
Masoncup said the change also expands the presence of Hemingway's legacy and helps reposition the business district in the community. The name change will bring new signage and banners, as seen in other districts across the village.
"I think this was sort of happening village-wide. We're recognizing that we have this history that people come to from all over the world to see. I think that's important," Masoncup said. "I think The Avenue, being in the heart of Oak Park, has a lot of rich history. … Those are things that should be celebrated."
She said before moving forward with the change, the association worked with the Hemingway Foundation to reach out to Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's only remaining son.
"To be respectful we wanted their blessing. We wanted them to understand we were honoring his legacy, not trying to manipulate it for commercial purposes."
John Berry, president of the foundation, said his group checked the legalities of using the name, the opinion of the family and the foundation before providing approval. All parties agreed the name change was a good fit.
"Since we basically have two cultural anchors in Oak Park, Frank Lloyd Wright and Hemingway, it's good for the foundation to have that additional exposure on Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue," Berry said. "I hope it brings more people to the museum. I just think it's a win-win."