At one time, business and residence owners could select their own house number. Of course, there were some restrictions, if you lived or owned a business in the first block, numbers had to be consistent, in that odd numbers were on one side, even on the other, and of course if you were in the first block, the number of your residence/business could not exceed the number 100.
This went on for many years, and as the city began to grow, it became something of a challenge for the fire and police departments, to say nothing of the post officer.
Oddly enough, it took well over one hundred years before any serious consideration was given to changing the way people selected their house numbers.
In June of 1962, considerable thought was given by the Xenia City Commission regarding the possibility of re-numbering all the houses in the city. At this time, there were several subdivisions in the city, so the task would be considerable.
The city commission authorized the preparation of a uniform home numbering system to end confusion existing as a result of the then-existing system.
City Engineer D. Robert Conard hoped to be able to present a proposal by the end of July, but was unable to accomplish the huge task in such a short time. This would include a complete revamping of the city’s house numbering system.
Preliminary work took months of consideration and planning on the part of the Engineer and his staff.
The proposal would include changing nearly every address in the entire city, with only about 50 numbers remaining unchanged.
City Officials hoped the new system would provide a uniform method eliminating the current confusion, and hopefully would be a solution for many more years to come.
The proposal drawn by the city engineer began by using Main and Detroit Streets as the axis streets. Thus the numbers would begin in each direction from that intersection, going north and south, east and west. His pl.an was to assign a number to each 10 feet of space along each street.
House numbers were to be even on the north and west sides of the streets and odd on the south and east sides.
Of course, this necessitated that all home owners and businesses secure new numbers for their homes. The city would require three inch numbers to be affixed to each home or business.
Of course, there was considerable discussion among the residents of the city, some thought the proposal was a good idea, others protested that it would be too much trouble and too expensive to make the change.
At that time, mail delivery was of utmost importance. Bills and correspondence arrived by mail and often bills were paid by mailing a check. This would mean that the homeowner or businessman would have to notify correspondents of the change the address, and the Post Office would have to be aware of the new numbers, just in case a letter was sent to a “former” address.
On September 23, 1962, an ordinance was introduced by City Solicitor Philip Altman to make the appropriate changes. The Commission approved the project.
However, to give adequate time for the entire plan to be laid out, the change would not be effective until January 1, 1963,
Residents would have one month after the change to purchase and install new numbers on their houses. All numbers in the city were to be consistent no later than Feb. 1, 1063.
At first there was great confusion. Businesses had to change their advertising to include a new address and new letterhead had to be printed. The telephone book required considerable work to accommodate the new addresses, and folks had to learn to give a new address on their correspondence
On East Main Street, old numbers were 10, 16, 22, 26, 28, 30, 36 etc. The new numbering system showed 28, 30, 36, 38, 40 and 50. On the other side of the street what had been 15, 25, 31, 35, 43, 49, 51 became 7, 11, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 25.
In addition to changing the records in city hall, the phone book and Post Office, the city directory had to be changed. In order to accommodate the changes, the 1962 Directory included the name of the individual or business, the “new” address” and beside it in parenthesis the “old” address.
Today, if you are seeking the address of a residence which was constructed before 1962, and the address you have is prior to that date, you may want to check the City Directory of 1962. City directories are available at the Greene County Library and the Greene County Historical Society for quick reference.
This was a massive undertaking for the city and the residents and in the years since, more structures have been added in the city, and each conforms to the proposed numbering change of 1962.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and longtime historical columnist.