By: Vince Farinaccio
Although it seems unimaginable, it was only 52 years ago that Vineland instituted a uniform system for numbering houses in the town. And according to reports at the time, it was long overdue.
The process of house numbering in Europe can be traced to early 16th century Paris, but this method may have been for the purpose of property distribution rather than organization. It wasn’t until the start of the 18th century that houses were numbered to facilitate mail delivery and other such services. By mid-century, according to online sources, metropolises like Madrid, Paris, London and Vienna had all adapted this new system.
In 1768, King Louis XV of France expanded house numbering to areas outside of Paris, largely for the purposes of tracking military troops housed in civilian homes. By the 19th century, the U.S. had adapted the European method of organizing houses, which consisted of homes on one side of the street receiving odd numbers and those on the other side sporting even numbers. In this era, houses nearest the center of town earned the lowest numbers.
According to a 1967 Times Journal article, Vineland’s ordinance to establish “a uniform system for numbering property, naming streets, [and] establishing base lines for numbering and names purposes” arrived in 1966. However, it was another year before the system could be implemented.
A four-month planning process began with what the Times Journal referred to as a scaled “base map” of the city “made of a film-like material known as chromoflex [measuring] 12 feet by 12 feet [and constructed] in four three-foot sections” which were delivered to Tax Assessor Marriot Haines’s office on January 1, 1967.
Haines then undertook what he called “field work,” a study of “every corner property in the city” to examine the direction in which they faced. Work for this phase was completed by February 20 and Haines’s staff took over, “assigning numbers to the base map…entering assigned numbers on tax maps and transferring numbers to property record cards.” These tasks were wrapped up on March 15.
By March 28, 6,500 notifications to Vineland property owners explaining how the numbering system affected them had been prepared for a June 1 mailing, and Haines’s staff “began concentrating on changing the 17,000 addressograph plates dealing with as many tax bills handled by the assessor.”
Not all Vineland residents, however, were affected by the changes. For center city businesses and homes within Vineland’s original one-square-mile and slightly beyond, there were no changes “for the time being,” the Times Journal reported. The newspaper explained that the numbering would “apply to properties both taxable and tax-exempt from Oak Road north to the city line, Delsea Drive west to the Maurice River, Walnut Road south to the Millville city line and Main Road east to the city line. Delsea Drive, Oak, Walnut and Main Roads are all included in the new numbering system.”
In 1861, when Charles K. Landis marked the official founding of Vineland with a stake driven at Landis Avenue and the Boulevard, he designated that intersection as the center of town. Those same roads were just as pivotal in 1967. The numbering system used Landis Avenue as the dividing line between homes on the north and south sides of Vineland and the Boulevard as the base line for those on the east and west portions of town.
It was also reported that “numbers have been assigned according to a grid system on the basis of one number for each 10.56 feet of property frontage.” Using the European approach, homes on the left side of the street were odd numbers and those on the right even numbers, with houses closest to the base lines of Landis Avenue and the Boulevard receiving the lowest numbers, according to the Times Journal.
The new system also added a requirement. Residents were given a July 15 deadline to buy and attach to their homes house numbers at least three inches in height and visible from the street.
Haines told the Times Journal that the numbering system should “take care of property numbers in Vineland for the next hundred years.” Another 48 years will determine if the prediction about Vineland’s house numbering system is correct.