Construction Monday – Tile House Numbers

January 11, 2016

When you’re out and about in Portland’s neighborhoods, have you ever noticed the white tile house numbers seen on homes all over town? There’s a great story behind those ceramic tiles that dates back more than 80 years. Nowadays, it’s much simpler to get around town, but if you get lost now….just imagine the difficulties back then! Before the city began its expansion in the late 19th century, people could find themselves at the wrong building on the wrong street in the wrong part of town due to the hodgepodge of street names and house numbers. In the 1840’s, Portland began as just a few blocks on the west side of the Willamette River. Before long, land north and south along the river, west into the hills and across the river to the east were soon claimed by the city. By 1891, there were twelve “A” streets, twelve “B” streets, twelve “First” streets, nine “Cedar” streets and so on….you get the picture. Needless to say, it was confusing. To alleviate from some of the directional headaches, duplicate street names were then removed but the numbering system remained a complete mess.

In the 1920’s, Portland City Commissioner Asbury Barbur campaigned to develop a standardized street naming and house numbering system to alleviate from the confusion caused by the current system. After much deliberation and planning, the newly uniformed system was finally adopted by Portland’s planning commission on September 2nd, 1931, during the Great Depression. Over the next two years, the city paid for and installed the new white and black tile house numbers on homes and businesses throughout the city of Portland. Many of those original sturdy, standard black-and-white tile numerals remain and on houses and buildings today. Everett Custom Homes continues the legacy of these black and white tile house numbers by placing them on all of our homes as a nod to Portland’s past. Our neighborhoods are rich in history and Everett loves to incorporate unique, historical elements into our new homes. Next time you see these house numbers, you’ll be reminded of a little piece of Portland’s history.

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