House numbering

In the United States, at least, house numbers have nothing to do with the Postal Service, but are assigned by city planning commissions and the like. How they do it, however, varies extremely.

In Manhattan, for example, where I live, streets run both east and west from the central spine, and are numbered starting at the spine and working outward. However, even numbers are always on the south side of a street. Manhattan avenues are numbered northwards; for details, see the Comments.

In Queens the houses were renumbered in 1926, inducing Queens resident Ellis Parker Butler (best known for the immortal "Pigs Is Pigs", to have this mnemonic rhyme published in the New York Times:

In Queens to find locations best —
Avenues, roads and drives run west;
But ways to north and south, 'tis plain
Are street or place or even lane;
While even numbers you will meet
Upon the west and south of street.

(You can sing it to the tune of "Little Brown Jug".)

What about the "100 house numbers per block" convention? This does not hold in the older parts of older U.S. cities (Manhattan does not obey it south of 8th St. or so), but is quite general in the U.S. as a whole.

In rural parts, it is not uncommon for houses to be neither named nor numbered; my house in the country has no "address" at all, and only post office boxes are provided (no mail delivery). Anyone who wants to reach me by snail (extremely snail) mail, can do so at:



fatbear said...

Er, John - hate to tell you, but in Manhattan the avenue numbers are odd on the east side of the street from Fifth Avenue (including Fifth) eastwards, and on the west side of the street from Sixth Avenue (including Sixth) westwards

e.g., 666 Fifth is on westside of Fifth; 1166 Sixth is on eastside of Sixth; 777 Seventh is on westside of Seventh; 385 Madison is on eastside of Madison

and just to louse it up, 30 Rockefeller Plaza is on the westside of the street

below the numbered avenues, odd numbers are on the westside east of West Broadway (The Mercer Kitchen is at 147 Mercer) and on the eastside west of West Broadway (including West Broadway) (Bruno's Bakery is at 506 LaGuardia, which is the renamed West Broadway above Houston as we all know)

Anonymous said...

> In rural parts, it is not uncommon
> for houses to be neither named
> nor numbered; my house in the
> country has no "address" at all

In rural parts around here, even if you do not have a postal address, you still have a rural address/fire number for emergency services.

Norman Walsh said...

The first time I went to Bangkok, I read through several guidebooks. One of them said this about finding a numbered street address: "You can't."

They meant it too. The numbers are...not exactly random, but not predictable either.