# Street Addresses

I was told that the Napoleonic government in the 1800’s created the conventional method of addresses that goes as follows:

West side of the street - even numbers
East side of street - odd numbers
The numbers increase in increments of 4
Each new block starts out a new series of numbers, and the go up in a sequential method, North to South

ex. Main Street and 1st Ave - 100 block
Main Street and 2nd Ave - 200 block
Main Street and 3rd Ave - 300 block

For streets that run east-west, the numbers increase from East to West.
My sanity depends on this.

What’s your question? Are you asking if this is the case in all cities?

In Memphis at least, street numbers on east-west streets increase from west to east, since the Mississippi River is the western border of the city (and the state) and everything spreads eastward from it. And, come to think of it, I live on the east side of my street, and my address is an even number. So a couple of your hypotheses do not apply here.

I do know that in many downtowns, the block (1st st, 2nd st, etc.) does indeed determine the hundreds digit in addresses.

In my city, odd numbers are on the left as you move from the center of town.

So, if you are traveling west from the center of downtown, odd numbers will be on the south side of the street. If you are traveling east, odd numbers will be on the north side of the street.

As best it can, the block number also reflects the hundreds digit in addresses. Some streets just don’t fit the quadrant numbering so I think the city planners just punt.

In my rush, I forgot the question. Did Napoleon’s government develop that numbering system?
(note to self - don’t post when supervisor is coming)

Have you ever seen a map of Paris in the early 1800s? It wasn’t exactly laid out in a nice even grid, like US cities are. Every picture I’ve seen of other contemporary French cities of the day are the same maze of winding little streets.

So while I can’t prove it’s not sure, I can’t imagine a situation in which it could be used in practice.

Someplace I read, a long time ago, that in at least one German town houses were numbered in the order in which they were built. Any input from German’s on that?

There are many exceptions to what is outlined in the OP. Here in Toledo, Ohio, address numbers increase with the distance from the center of town. Or at least wherever the center of town was when they began assigning addresses; the center obviously moves as a city annexes additional land and this doesn;t quite hold true anymore.

Also, odd and even addresses switch sides of the streets as they cross that centroid. That is, 10 West Main St. might be on the north side while 10 East Main St. would be on the south side. This is identical to what Ruby said above.

Further, addresses are not necessarily incremented by four. In the neighborhood in which I grew up, most were indeed assigned in increments of four, but that was only on the “standard width” lots - 40’. The larger lots, and there were several on my block were 50’ and the addresses were incremented by six in those cases.

Whether Napoleon developed and used the scheme you have outlined, I cannot say.

I’m a county planner, and this may not be true across the country, or necessarily in cities, but I’m pretty sure planners don’t assign addresses. Around here that’s up to the local 911 dispatch.

Another point from this discussion: the next 100s in addresses don’t always corrispond with the next block. I grew up in an old, grid system neighborhood, where each block had addresses from 3 centuries (ie my block started with 1700 and ended with something in the upper 1900s).

I work in GIS (mapping) for a county and city and our county planners do the addressing for the county, I do it for the city. In the next county over, the GIS person assigns the numbers for the county but not the city, I think the city manager does it there so the actually work can be done by a number of folks in the government.

What I never knew before I had to do it, was how difficult assigning, keeping track and maintaining that information is. It seems rather trivial to the outside world, but its not so easy. And lives depend on the information being correct.

I never heard about that German town, FWIW.

The introduction of house numbers to Germany is usually credited to the French who occupied parts of Germany in the revolutionary/Napoleonic period. That numbering system was not by street, but by town (i.e. the house number was unique within the town/city). E.g. a well-known eau de cologne brand is 4711; derived from the the manufacturer’s house being numbered house #4711 in Cologne by the French. This system with houses being assigned a number but no street address used to be more widespread (I know that it applied im my father’s hometown in the 1920s) but today is only used in some small villages.

The usual German street address numbering system is: outwards from the city center 1, 3, 5, … on the left and 2, 4, 6, … on the right, with no blockwise numbering (as only a very few German cities are laid out in a grid). When a plot is later subdivided postfixed numbers are interpolated (e.g. when a house is built between no. 34 and no. 36 it is usually numbered 34a). In a small number of streets the houses are numbered according to another system: 1, 2, 3, … on one side until the end of the street, then back on the other side, still counting up, so that house no. 1 is opposite the house with the highest number.

Sounds unnecessarily complicated? It does make it more difficult to navigate to an address. The US are fortunate in having started their cities from scratch in the Age of Reason and afterwards.

I can’t answer the OP, but in rural California it goes by mileage marker. Marker numbers appear on the side of the highway, and each culvert, bridge, and other feature of interest to the highway personnel has one. The marker includes an abbreviation for the county and highway, and a number that shows the distance from the county line or county seat.

So a marker might show SC 12.03, and the street address of that farm or residence would be 12030 Highway 17.

This is a fairly boring hijack, I’m including it because knowing about mileage markers comes in handy sometimes.

I’ve heard that in Tokyo, after WWII, they gave the first building built on a bombed out block the number 1, the second one built number 2, etc. So there is little rhyme or reason when trying to find addresses.

This is more or less the system we have here in the UK. As for navigating to an address - for most towns you can buy an A to Z ( or equvalent ) indexed street map which makes finding you way around town quite easy. I have used these maps at work and there are a real help.

One of the planners I supervise assigns addresses in new subdivisions. I used to assign addresses when I was the PD of an Orlando suburb. I’ve worked on rural addressing and address correction projects, too.

Some large, fast growing cities and counties have staff that devote a fair amount of their time to addressing; where there is a standard address and street name grid, they may even designate street names.

elmwood, AICP

Fair enough. Like I said, I didn’t think it was true everywhere. But it’s also true that planners don’t always assign addresses, and that other agencies (like 911) do so in some areas.

Thrillhouse, soon to be aicp

I work for the GIS dept in a county in the Colorado mountains. And, it is the GIS dept that assigns the addresses. We use the mile marker system. Your address depends on the distance you live down a road.

We work closely with planning, and any new subdivision and street names need a sign off by GIS. We do this to try to prevent duplicate subdivision and more importantly street names.

It can be a bit of a problem. Many developers jump the gun and spend thousands promoting a new subdivision before everything is accepted.

The biggest problem for us is duplicate street names. We are a mountain/ski/tourist community. Everyone wants a name that relates to -snow, skiing, mountains or whatever animal they have displaced :). The street name ‘Elk Run’ is actually very fitting :).

We try to get the towns on board with this as well. But often, they don’t put there foot down and accept a duplicated name.

It can be a real problem for 911, since many tourists don’t really know where they are. Duplicate street names become a real problem.

Shoot, I got the wrong smileys in that last post. It doesn’t make any of us happy that migration coridors are being displaced.

I don’t know when it started but the order is apparently based on when they decided a building needed a number. Korea uses the same system (within a defined district). The only way an address is of any use is if you have a map detailed enough to show every address and then it’s just hunt at random on the map.

House numbering - it used to be the bane of my existence, but no more. I have staff to do that now.

Plnnr, AICP