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A whole lot of confusion

By Staff | Mar 30, 2009

I have to admit it. When I first moved to Blue Earth, I was constantly getting lost in this small town.

Well, ‘lost’ may not be the right word. ‘Confused’ would be a better description. Let me explain.

It all started the very first day I showed up in Blue Earth, trying to find the Faribault County Register office. That’s right, I didn’t locate the newspaper office right away, and nearly was late for the job interview.

I knew the Register was at 125 North Main. I found Main, then followed the numbered cross streets looking for First and Second Streets, and figuring No. 125 would be in between the two.

Wrong. This was a residential area.

The Register office was right downtown where it would logically be. But illogically, in my mind anyway, it was between Fifth and Sixth Streets.

This problem continued as I went house searching. After looking up addresses of homes for sale on real estate web sites, my wife and I would walk around town each evening looking for the locations. It was difficult to do. Houses that were listed at certain addresses were not where we thought they would be. We finally just looked for the for sale signs in the front yards.

Then there was the additional problem of finding some homes with even numbered addresses sometimes on the west or north side of the street, and sometimes even numbers would be on the east or south side of the street.

Who laid out this crazy system, we wondered?

The two places we have lived at in Blue Earth are prime examples of this enigma.

First, we lived at 225 North Main. It was located on the west side of Main, and had an odd number. It was also between Fourth and Fifth Streets, not Second and Third.

Our second home is at 426 South Main. It is also on the west side of the street, but has an even number. Go figure. It is also not between Fourth and Fifth, but instead is on the corner of Tenth.

Confused? So was I.

Finally, after many months of walking and driving around town finding places on instinct alone, I lamented the problem to a group of local people. One of them, Dr. John Sawyer, explained the secret to this crazy system.

It seems you have to know one thing. The center of Blue Earth is the corner of Sixth and Main. Why it is there, and not at the corner of Seventh and Main – a more major intersection – I have no idea.

So all of the street addresses begin at the corner of Sixth and Main. The block north is numbered in the 100s, the next block is the 200’s and so forth. Same for heading south.

That explains that. But what about the odd and even numbers sometimes being on the same side of the street?

The answer is that you have to imagine yourself standing at the center of town, at the Sixth and Main intersection. If you face north, the numbers off to your left will be odd; to the right are the even numbers.

If you face south, the numbers to your left (the other side of the street from when you faced north) are the odd numbers.

The same process applies to facing east and west.

Now we are getting somewhere. All of a sudden things are sliding into place.

But who came up with this screwy system? Obviously it must have seemed logical to the original city planners. I wonder if they met at the local watering hole when they plotted the streets?

Sawyer admits it would make some sense to either rename the streets, or renumber the addresses. Neither, of course, is likely to ever happen, so we will have to learn to live with what we’ve got.

It means when someone from out of town comes to visit, explicit instructions are in order as to how to find my house. Ignore what you feel is logical, I tell them, and just keep heading south on Main until you get to Tenth. There you will find No. 426.

Yes, I say, it is a little confusing.

I don’t even have the heart to send them into the ‘Tanglewood’ area, where the streets meander all over the place, sometimes seeming to change their names before you come to the end.

Not to mention this question. Why is ‘North’ Circle Drive on the far ‘south’ side of town? And why is there a North East Street? Should it be East Street North?

Ah well. Soon I will be just like a native Blue Earth resident, who ignores the street addresses and simply knows each home by the person who once lived there – for the longest period of time. Take me for example. When I tell folks where I live, 426 South Main means little to them. Then they say, “Oh, that’s the Harlan Peterson home.”

Right. I wonder how many years have to go by before it becomes the Chuck Hunt home?

I should live so long.