I’ve Got Your Number

Unlike my usual posts, this one is not about a particular ride. Instead, it is a sort of compilation of many rides, most of them in 2014. Today’s post focuses on addresses, or house numbers, as they are officially known.

You might correctly suspect that properties were first given addresses in the early days of Saint Paul, July 29, 1874 to be exact.(1) Just six years later a new ordinance was approved that more precisely defined how addresses were assigned.(2) Don Empson, in The Street Where You Live, tells the fascinating and sometimes confusing story of how addresses are assigned now and the progression of the process since 1874.

There is a vast melange of house and building numbers around town, something I really noticed last year. Some differences, like size and materials (i.e., metal, wood) might be obvious. But there is a whole lot more to this numbers game than those characteristics.

The address numbers in Saint Paul range from a single digit to four. The ‘zero point’, or place where single digit house numbers for north–south streets start, roughly follows Summit Avenue to Ramsey Street, the Mississippi River and effectively along Upper Afton Road. Address numbers grow larger as one moves north or south of this imaginary line.

The ‘zero point’ for east west streets is basically along Sylvan Street south to Wabasha through Downtown and to the West Side to Humbolt Avenue to the Saint Paul’s border with West Saint Paul.

5 Heather Place in the Crocus Hill neighborhood.

5 Heather Place in the Crocus Hill neighborhood.

1636 englewood

1636 Englewood in Hamline-Midway.

Some have home-made house numerals.

The address numbers at 1394 Englewood Avenue in the Midway neighborhood.

The address numbers at 1394 Englewood Avenue in the Midway neighborhood.

1211 ????

Not all house numbers are posted on the house (at first glace that doesn’t really make sense.) From signs to stoops to steps, addresses appear in assorted places on Saint Paulites’ property.

At this Dayton Avenue home, the address number adorns the wrought iron fence.

At this Dayton Avenue home, the address number adorns the wrought iron fence.

882 James?

I’m not certain if this is a step or a stoop, but here the address sits.

1541 on 6-22-14

Not just an ordinary sign, but a decorative one!

1362 ???

Sign posts.

881 james

I don’t know that there were house numbers at the time represented by the horse and buggy.

Of course, homes are not the only structures that have address numbers. Even undeveloped lots have an address, although it might not be posted. Buildings, too, must display an address and do so with nearly the variety of homes.

1455 fulham

One of the buildings at Luther Seminary in the Como Park neighborhood.

632 snelling?

These painted numbers are from two or three colors ago. From the building on Snelling at Charles Avenue.

362 cleveland

Horizontal and vertical address numbers at 362 Cleveland.

600 Central

Really BIG, brown numbers on an apartment building on Central Avenue in Frogtown.

540 cedar

The Elmer L. Andersen Human Services Building Downtown.

250 fuller

250 Fuller is the only one of the Fuller Apartment buildings to have address numbers like this above the main entrance.

1955 prior

The yellow awning with the building’s address stands out like no other. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Although uncommon, there are fractional addresses. This one is on a building on St. Peter Street Downtown.

Although uncommon, there are fractional addresses. This one is on a building on St. Peter Street Downtown.

There are horizontally, vertically and diagonally-oriented house numbers.

1707 ???


1763 5-18-14

Vertically AND horizontally oriented. Juliet and Wheeler, Macgroveland.

A diagonal, on Charles Avenue, Frogtown

A diagonal, on Charles Avenue, Frogtown.

Duplexes, naturally, require two house numbers.

1395 1397 oxford

On Oxford Street, two address numbers keep Snoopy company.

The address numbers at 1051-1053 Ashland Avenue, a duplex.

No caption necessary.

Tile and ceramics add some panache to the lowly house number.

1286 la fond

Tiles on Lafond.

1363 ?? 1703 ???

Scripted addresses are rare, perhaps because people aren’t learning how to write or read it.

1246 Lafond, Frogtown.

1246 Lafond, Frogtown.

Finally, a smattering of unusual house numbers.

118 Douglas, West End

An old and worn house number on the stone fence in front of 118 Douglas, West End.

Neon numbers on Hague Avenue.

Neon numbers on Hague Avenue.

335 ???

These address numbers were really popular during the 60s and early 70s, at least where I grew up. Usually they were placed on the storm door.

st columba rectory lafond

The fish is on the rectory of The Church of St. Columba on Lafond.

1947 grand

Another Art Deco beauty on a Grand Avenue apartment building.

2040 grand

Finally, my favorite address sign. This beautifully crafted Art Deco address sign has so many things to look at–different color and type of stone, various textures and nearly flawless symmetry. The Grand Avenue apartment building on which this sits was built in 1926.

This assortment is just a sample of the creative, odd, mundane, lavish and gaudy ways house numbers are presented. Let me know if you see an interesting address number on your travels in Saint Paul.


(1) The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul by Donald Empson; page 248

(2) The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul by Donald Empson; page 249

Wolfie Browender

About Wolfie Browender

Wolfie Browender has lived in Saint Paul with his wife, Sue, since 1986. He is proud to live in Minnesota's Capitol City. Wolfie is a native of the Milwaukee, WI area. The father of two adult daughters, Wolfie bikes for fun and exercise. You can follow his travels throughout Saint Paul on his blog Saint Paul By Bike-Every Block of Every Street at https://saintpaulbybike.com.

5 thoughts on “I’ve Got Your Number

  1. Michael Kuchta

    Don’t forget that St. Paul requires addresses on the alley side of properties, too (presumably for “public safety” reasons).
    As for the idea of uniform addresses, Milwaukee’s Germanic conformity ethic used to require standardized black numbers on white tiles….

  2. Daniel Herriges

    Growing up in St. Paul, I was completely fascinated by this stuff as a little kid. Looking at house numbers was endless entertainment from the car window on trips around town. Now I’m one of those native St. Paulites that still takes a perverse pride in how difficult the city is for outsiders to navigate, with no pattern to the street names and a grid numbering system that’s quite logical but initially seems inscrutable. I don’t know of any other city that uses St. Paul’s exact system: 1/16 of a mile (the smallest standard city block width) corresponds to 30 address numbers, and thus 1 mile corresponds to 480. 100 is such a boring number.

    Do have to say I love Minneapolis’s alphabetical streets, though: brilliant way to achieve ease of navigation without the boredom of only having numbered streets and avenues.

Comments are closed.