Stratford by the numbers  Stratford-Perth Archives

Street numbers became popular in 1882

The Herald, Aug. 13, 1907, reported: Citizens generally should be pleased to learn that ere the close of the week the free postal delivery will be in operation in the city. Patrons of the post office, when entering the uptown office, should read the printed notice in the lobby. It is absolutely necessary that all persons wishing to have their mail delivered to their homes must tell their friends to put their street and number on their house. Ten people were appointed carriers. As postage on newspapers will be one cent per copy subscribers should call and say whether they want them carried by mail carrier or the Herald. The cost of the Herald delivered by carrier is 35 cents per month.   

Adopting a report of the Number 2 Committee (Board of Works) dated Nov. 14, 1906, council committed to improving the navigation of the city by implementing a numbering system, labelling streets at the intersections and changing some of the street names. Obviously, house numbers and street signs at intersections are helpful tools locating specific businesses and residences. Numbered addresses are needed to identify a location with a high degree of certainty, especially compared to relatively vague directions that rely on landmarks and descriptions  i.e. "fifth yellow brick house on the left past the tall oak tree."

However, Stratford had been getting by without an official system in place for decades. According to the new plan, numbers were to be allotted 13 feet, six inches of space each, which allowed for 500 numbers per concession or every 1.25 miles. The committee thought that this would provide ample flexibility for future commercial and residential development.

The city's new numbers were to be divided by a baseline running east to west and a dividing line running north to south. The baseline would consist of the Avon River and Victoria Lake. The dividing line was made up of Mornington and Downie streets. The street end nearest either line would be assigned the number one. Any street that crosses the baseline would be labelled as being north or south (i.e. Waterloo St. N. or Waterloo St. S.) and streets crossing the dividing line would be labelled as being east or west (i.e., East Gore St. or West Gore St.).

To make sure that the numbering was consistent on all streets, the report also stated what side of the street even and odd numbers would be placed. Even numbers were assigned to the northerly and westerly sides and odd numbers to the easterly and southerly sides.

At the time, it was not uncommon for a single street to have many names along its length, so some were changed to limit confusion. For instance, the first block of Downie Street, running south from Ontario Street, was initially called Market Street. Now, it would all be known as Downie Street. Some other notable metafictions were changing Mill Street to Douglas Street and merging Gore, Galt and South streets into Gore Street.

The estimated cost of the suggested changes was approximately $1,280. This included affixing street numbers to all of the dwellings and erecting street signs at every intersection, The first signs and numbers consisted of aluminum numbers and lettering affixed to a black backing.  The winning bid for the street signs came in from Thomas Weir at 45 cents per unit.

Having an official numbering system and street labels at every intersection would allow for higher ease or navigation throughout the city, but the board of works had more in mind. Item 14 of the report stated that if the changes were carried out, the postal authorities should be approached to have Stratford considered for a postal delivery system. Until then, Stratford residents had to either a post office box or receive mail through "general delivery."

With postal delivery, people could have their mail delivered to their door. Without a numbering system in place, Stratford was a poor candidate for the new service because it would be difficult to ensure that the mail went to its intended destination.

With every residential dwelling and business having been assigned an official house number, the city council sent a resolution to the post master general's department for the inauguration of a free postal delivery system. The resolution was acknowledged on Feb. 4, 1907, and the city clerk was tasked with following through with the application process.

The application was a success, and on Aug. 13, 1907, Stratford had its postal delivery system in place. Source: Reflections: Stratford-Perth Archives