Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, December 6, 2015, pg. 3

Have you ever wondered how Albion got its numbering system for its street addresses? I know of one house here in town which had to add the "1/2" to its number because it was constructed between two established houses which had consecutive numbers and they wouldnít budge. As I travel to various communities I see different numbering systems. Some start with two digits and just keep going up the street by house no matter if it changes two digits in the middle of the block or anywhere else.

Prior to the 1890s, Albionís numbering system was like that. Numbers started with "1" or "2" at the intersection of Cass and Superior Sts. moving outwards, and the numbers worked their way up in consecutive even or odd order. For example, "22" could be the last house in one block, and "24" would be next in the next block on the same side. Battle Creek is still numbered using that method.

Albionís longtime Fire Chief, Frederick Peabody (1862-1934) devised the current numbering system for Albionís streets that is even being used today. The system is described in the 1894-95 Albion City Directory (pg. 11) and contains some interesting tidbits of information as follows:

"The free delivery of mails began October 1, 1889. At present there are three carriers. The numbering of streets which became necessary for the free delivery system of mails, is the one used in this directory in designating the houses of the city. It is after the idea known as the Philadelphia system. The streets are divided into a north and south and an east and west portion. The numbering begins at the intersection of Cass and Superior streets so that all that portion of all streets running north and south, which lie south of Cass street have the prefix "south," as for instance South Clinton St; that portion of all north and south streets lying north of Cass street have the word "north" as a prefix."

"Likewise, that portion of all streets running east and west lying east of Superior St. have the prefix "east," as for instance, East Erie St; and that portion of the streets lying west of Superior have the prefix "west." All even numbers are on one side of the street and odd ones on the opposite. In the business portion each business place is allotted a number. In the residence section, 33 feet constitute a number [NOTE: Bet you didnít know that]. Each block is numbered by the hundred so that in going to an adjacent block the number of the houses increases one hundred. Therefore, the third block south of Cass St. will be in the "three hundreds," the fifth block in the "five hundreds." For instance, the fifth block on Clinton south of Cass will be 500 South Clinton, and the houses will be numbered 501, 503, etc. on the one side, and 500, 502, etc. on the opposite. These numbers increase until the next block is reached, when the numbering changes to 600."

"The advantage of the system is that a person can tell how many blocks away a certain house is by knowing its number. It is a perfect system of numbering and great credit is due Chief Peabody of the fire department for his exactness in numbering the houses in the city."

Of course there are exceptions to everything, and that exception belongs to South Ionia St. This fractured street is separated by the old mill raceway on E. Erie St. and the Kalamazoo River Market Place area with no hopes of ever being a complete through thoroughfare to Perry St. where the north part begins. So when the new numbering system was instituted, S. Ionia St. at E. Erie St. began with the "200s" (instead of the 400s as it should have been), but N. Ionia St. was given the correct block numbering.

From our Historical Notebook this we present a photograph of Albion Fire Chief Frederick Peabody, author of Albionís street numbering system. Fred served as Albion Fire Chief during various terms beginning in 1887 to 1930.

Albionís longtime Fire Chief, Frederick Peabody (1862-1934)


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