Address Numbers change and Yorkers Resist the Change; also Pullman Building
This is a southward looking view along the west side of North George Street; while standing at the North Street intersection. The Pullman Building is identified by upper sidewalls still painted with “Pullman Automobiles” and “York Motor Car Co.” I’ll use this stretch of road to illustrate the change of street address numbers in the City of York.
City Directories are excellent sources to discover where your ancestors lived, or where a business was located in the City of York. Using these directories, I’ve seen family histories, where people write, “my grandparents moved down the street in 1899.” However it is easy to get misled, because in some cases they did not move, instead the street address number changed for the same building.
This post explores when and why the street address changes were made in York. You’ll see the adjustment was not easy for Yorkers; it took almost 20 years for the acceptance of these changes.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of York, PA, include street addresses. In this illustration, the street addresses along the west side of North George Street between North Street and Gay Alley are shown for the years 1887 and 1908. The full block Sanborn maps appear later in this post.
Today the street address for the Pullman Building, housing the Pullman Apartments is 238 North George Street. In the early 1900s, when the York Motor Car Company was manufacturing Pullman Automobiles at that location, they used 242 North George Street. Both of these addresses represent either end of the wide building centered at 240 North George Street.
In the 1800s, this location housed carriage makers; first H. Martin & Son and then the York Carriage Company. City Directories, through and including 1898, indicate the York Carriage Company was located at 158 and 160 North George Street. City Directories, starting in 1899, indicate the York Carriage Company was located at 240 North George Street.
I’ve seen Internet carriage building web sites noting “The York Carriage Company moved a block north in 1899; into bigger facilities at 240 North George Street.” Did the York Carriage Company move between 1898 and 1899? No, only the street address number on the building was changed.
However street renumbering throughout York did not occur only between 1898 and 1899. The reason: the street numbering ordinance, requiring these changes, passed and became law in January 1885. The new numbers were assigned, however most Yorkers refused to put the new number on their home or business.
In the initial years, after the ordinance went into effect, there were pockets in the city that put the new numbers on their buildings, however eventually most changed back to the old numbers. In the late 1890s there was another push to abide by the numbering ordinance. That push had the greatest success and property owners using the new numbers became the majority.
Note that I said the majority and not everyone; for in the early 1900s there were still hold-outs, all around the city, clinging to their old house number. The result was many streets with pairs of houses containing the same number. The business owners and postal authorities justly complained. An article in the August 27, 1901 issue of The York Daily noted,
It does seem that the city authorities might do something about the matter of having the houses of this city correctly numbered. The present state of affairs is simply disgraceful. It is not at all unusual to find houses numbered as much as a hundred out of the proper order. This occurs not simply in one or two squares but all over the city.
There is now being compiled a new city directory, which will have to serve us for two years. If the present numbers are used, the directory will often be misleading. Yet how can the compilers use any other number than that which appears on the house?
A year later, the September 6, 1902 issue of The York Daily noted an attempt in Common Council to rectify the irregular house numbering in the city.
A resolution introduced by Mr. Rudisill, that the mayor be directed to enforce the ordinance passed and approved in January, 1885, in regard to the numbering of houses, and that the time for the enforcement should be made at 60 days, was received with quite a lengthy discussion.
The lengthy discussion was that the 1885 ordinance, being on the books for 17 years, should be enough. It passed and was approved as a law, so it should stand without a resolution; the mayor already having the power to enforce it. Two days later, the editorial in The York Daily was short and to the point, “The way to enforce the house numbering ordinance is to enforce.”
Two months later, in the October 28, 1902 issue of The York Daily, it appears that the mayor still has not decided to enforce this change upon the city residents; must have been an election year.
That numbering ordinance is still an ordinance only. We have heard of a party who had the new number put on, but as her neighbors have not done so, she finds that people fail to reach the new address, and so she is contemplating a return to the old number.
These types of articles appear in decreasing frequency for the next two years and I’ve not found one in 1905, so I assume most of the holdouts likely changed to the new house numbering by that time. So answering the question of when an individual house number change was made in York, it could have been anywhere between 1885 and 1905; although with the majority of numbering changes occurring between 1898 and 1903.
Why was the house numbering ordinance passed in 1885?
That is an easier question to answer. The numbering in the city was initially based upon bigger, non-uniform lots, so the distance between adjacent house numbers was not uniform. Most numbers changed every 24 to 30-feet; however if the original lot was much bigger, more than 30-feet of spacing was allotted between adjacent house numbers.
As the popularity of row homes increased, more homes could be put along a set frontage. With the initial house numbering, if one house was built between house numbers 346 and 348, it could be numbered 346-1/2. Likewise if two houses were built between house numbers 346 and 348, they could be numbered 346-1/3 and 346-2/3, and so on. More and more of these fractional addresses were occurring all over city.
In the 1885 numbering ordinance, a new house number is allotted for roughly every 16-feet of frontage, which gives ample facilities for the insertion of whole-numbered addresses on new houses. This ordinance forced the change of address number on virtually all the buildings in the City of York.
Continue reading for the full block Sanborn Fire Insurance maps along the west side of North George Street.
The following Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, from 1887, is along the west side of North George Street between North Street and Gay Alley and bounded by Cherry Alley. This Sanborn map section is from Penn State Libraries on-line digital collection of older Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
In 1887, at the location where the Pullman Building is situated, is the Carriage Factory of H. Martin & Son. This business included Hiram Martin and his son Milton D. Martin. Milton became a member of his father’s carriage business in 1882 and in 1888 went off on his own to establish the immensely successful Martin Carriage Works. It was Milton D. Martin who bequeathed funds for the building, equipping and maintenance of a free Public Library in York; the Martin Memorial Library, which opened in 1935.
The following Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, from 1908, is along the west side of North George Street between North Street and Gay Alley and bounded by Cherry Alley. This Sanborn map section is from Penn State Libraries on-line digital collection of older Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
In 1908, the present Pullman Building is situated at 240 North George Street. In 1908, the York Carriage Company owned the facilities where the York Motor Car Company was manufacturing Pullman Automobiles.
Other Pullman related posts include:
- Sole Surviving Pullman Automobile with Vulcan Electric Gear Shift
- Vulcan Technology is in Pullman’s Electrically Controlled Gasoline Automobile
- 1914 Pullman Chassis; First York Auto Show at The Coliseum
- YORK Pullman’s at The White House
- Albert P. Broomell, of Pullman Automotive Fame, and his 24 U. S. Patents
- #40 Broomell, Schmidt & Company Factory in York; Birthplace of Pullman Motor Car
- The York shop where Phineas Davis built steam locomotives