The Invention Of House Numbers
House numbers are considered an invention of the Enlightenment. Before houses were numbered, they had names or were found based on their position in relation to a landmark – the house opposite the church, the white house, and so on.
During the 15th century, examples of numbering like Paris’s Pont Notre-Dame numbered properties. However, it was only in the 18th century that house numbering took off. Among the initial widespread uses was the numbering of Jewish houses so inhabitants can be controlled and confined in the Prague ghetto.
The US also took part in the introduction of house numbers, wherein odd and even numbers were used on alternate sides of the street. In fact, this has become an international default. But this innovation from Philadelphia has led to low numbers being directly opposite high numbers. It was thought to be peculiar. Hence, it was changed in 1790 to the system that is being used worldwide today.
House numbers were originally introduced for subscription, control, and taxation. It is believed that this mechanism is the ultimate paradox of house numbers.
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