street numbers

History

Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan. Image: Wiki Commons.

Finding addresses on most of Manhattan’s streets and avenues is a pretty easy task in most places. Cross streets make sense thanks to the decimal system-based numbering that began in 1861, when each street block between two major avenues was assigned a set of 100 numbers. And we have this nifty algorithm for avenues, right? It all works…except when it doesn’t. And we’ve spent centuries trying to tame the city into an easy equation. But there are always outliers–and we always wonder why. If you look on the address algorithm chart, Fifth Avenue doesn’t fit easily into the “all” category. This is nothing new: According to The New York Times, in 1940 the Avenue of legend nixed a plan to renumber avenue addresses throughout the city because its wealthy business bigwigs didn’t want to have to change their letterhead.

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