Why Renumber and Rename Streets?

Engineer’s Department Would Like to See Some Changes

Two Streets of the Same Name Not an Unusual Occurrence – Renumbering Suggested

(From The Indianapolis Journal  April 8, 1895. Newspapers.com)

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The city engineer’s department has had under consideration for some time the question of renaming and renumbering the streets of the city.  The department believes that reform in this line is needed and a casual glance at that portion of the city directory which contains the names of the streets and a short hunt for some unknown number indicates that reformation is needed. The engineer’s department has prepared a number of ordinances with an improvement  as the object, but for some reason that (sic) they never appeared in the Council for consideration. It is said that there are three or four ordinances calling for changes in street names and numbers now at rest with committees.  The ordinance providing for the most radical change was prepared by Chief Clerk Fuller and he said the other day that he has never heard from it since he handed it to one of the councilmen for introduction and consideration. It provides for the changing of all the cross streets north of Washington street, calling Market street First street and the other cross streets named accordingly. The ordinance provided for fifty numbers to a square, so when a person found Third or Tenth street he would know what numbers could be found near those streets. This plan has been adopted in all the leading cities of the country. It is said by some that Indianapolis has the poorest numbered and worst named streets in the country.

At present there is no rule for finding a given number but “keep right on going until you come to it.” Persons who have to direct strangers find it difficult to do so. Street-car conductors, except after acquaintance with the numbers, seldom know where to stop the cars for given numbers. The present method of numbering streets running north and south from Washington street and those running east and west from Meridian street is said to be a good one. Many of the down-town streets are properly numbered, that is, for a certain distance from the center of the city. After a person gets out some distance, however, he is likely to find 1070, 1039 and 1067 on houses in one row.

But the renumbering of the streets would not begin to cause the change which the renaming of them would. There are several cases shown in the directory, where two streets in different parts of the town have the same name. Since the annexation of North Indianapolis the confusion is greater, for that suburb has many streets bearing the same names as streets in the old Indianapolis. Irvington street namers seemed to take delight in adding to the confusion for the majority of their streets have the same names as streets in the city. But as Irvington is a town all by itself the city cannot presume to interfere with its naming of throughfares. Should the streets north of Washington Street be given numbers for names the names which they now bear could be given to some of those streets which have been so hard run for a name that they have had to take the name frequently heard but doubtless it is little known that there are two College avenues. There is the one for which the street-car line is named and then over east, somewhere in the vicinity of the Monon tracts, there is another College avenue. Should a seeker of the little-known College avenue desire to find his way some night it might be embarrassing for him. Noble is another familiar street name and it should be, for there are two Noble streets, upon each of which live many people. One of them is a north and south street east of Meridian and the other is west of Meridian, near the river. There is a Fifteenth street and after it has run for a distance under that name it changes to Bruce street. Eleventh street acts in much the same manner, except that it adopts Herbert as a name, after a certain length. Carter is the name of a north and south street in the northern part of the city and also the name of an east and west street in the eastern part. Christian avenue is a very pretty residence street north and Christian street is a street of homes east of Rural street. There is a Davis street northwest in the Fourth ward and a Davis street southeast in the Twelfth ward . There are two Eldridge streets in different parts of the city and two Ellis streets several miles apart.  There is an English avenue southeast and an English street north. It is a long distance which separates Harrison avenue from Harrison street, but a stranger would be apt to put them very close together, that is until he found one and then learned that it was the other he was seeking.  There is a Michigan street, a Michigan avenue and a Michigan road and each has many residents. There are two Nevada streets, one way up north in the First ward and the other as far south in the Fourteenth. South, there is a Pennsylvania avenue, although one of the principal north-and-south streets is named Pennsylvania, and the two are not related. There are two School streets, two Smith streets and two Sheridan streets and a number on either cannot be sought without confusion. Walnut seems to be a favorite for streets in this locality. One of the leading cross streets on the North side is named Walnut, there is a Walnut in the Fifth ward, a Walnut in North Indianapolis and Irvington complicates matters by having a Walnut avenue. Many cases appear where two streets bear the same name. West Indianapolis and Haughville have been somewhat considerate and but few of their streets bear the same names as the Indianapolis streets.

Policemen who are expected to direct strangers and answer all questions put to them, daily realize the confusion resulting from too many streets and two few names.  The engineer’s office also appreciates the embarrassment and the employees of that department are anxious for a reformation. The Council has the power to change the names of streets, but only occasionally is such done. A councilman from one ward naturally feels that the other fellow should ask the change and no councilman feels called upon to ask the change of the other fellow’s street.


This post is in answer to the question “Why renumber houses?” raised by this post “910 Fayette Street – Not the House I Thought It Was”