When There Were No House Numbers and No Directories

When There Were No House Numbers and No Directories

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When one went to a store In Ottawa in the 1800s and bought something which was too heavy to carry home, one gave one’s address something like this, “I live on Clarence street, halfway between Sussex and Dalhousie streets. It is a white cottage set back from the street about 20 feet,” or whatever designation would make it easy for the parcel delivery man to find.

There were no street numbers then and no street directory. To help out, a good many people who could afford it had name plates of various sorts on their doors. But after all, finding somebody’s place wasn’t so hard as everybody in a block in those days knew pretty much everything about everybody else in that block and could direct one very quickly: “Fourth door from the corner on the other side of the street,” or “The big brown house in the middle of the block,” or “The little log house, whitewashed,” etc. Or it might be, “The frame house with the lilac bushes in front.”

Everybody’s place had some distinctive description, and the people in that period had to be trained to be observant of the distinctive marks of places, just as today a farmer can unerringly direct you to a certain farm by describing to you certain frontal appearances of the place. It Is all a matter of being observant.

On the other hand, when a farmer asks you where a certain person lives in town, you simply go to a directory or a telephone book and tell him the address or wherever he does live. The natives and the pioneers had to be observant. Their comfort and their safety depended on their observance of bush marks and landmarks.

The man who delivered goods also had to be observant. His ability to remember places and descriptions saved him a lot of hunting. In the fifties a considerable part of the population could not read and they had to have signs and descriptions to guide them. The stores provided signs for such and they were all signs indicative of the line of business followed in the store. There were signs of keys, clothing, saws, boots, hats, coal scuttles, and what not. The business streets were a mass of signs of every description. The man or-woman who could not read could at least detect the location of the sort of store he was looking for. Besides the signs, to guide the uneducated, were plenteous displays of merchandise outside every store door.


Carleton Place Directory 1859


    Village of Lanark Business Directory 1886– 1887

    Business Directory for Ferguson Falls 1866

    Business Directory for Ferguson Falls 1866

    Farmersville 1859 County Directory (Athens)


  2. Almonte 1859 Business Directory

    Charleston Lake Village 1800s Directory

    The Tiny Hamlet of Bellamy’s Mills 1851

  3. Business Directory of Carleton Place 1866 and 1867- Any name you recognize?


  4. 1898-1899 Carleton Place Directory

  5. Carleton Place 1903 Business Directory –Names Names Names


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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