Historical scholarship on the spatial organization of cities has largely ignored the crucial role that house numbering has played as a political technology of spatial calculation since the eighteenth century. This article examines the spatial history of house numbering in Manhattan to illustrate how the numbering of buildings was a key strategy employed to reconfigure the city as a space of calculability. From the very outset, however, such calculable spaces of ‘number’ were riddled with contradictions, resulting in several rounds of spatial rationalization over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More than a mere technical concern alone, the history of house numbering in New York City exemplifies the spatial politics and temporal instabilities that have shaped the spaces of calculation in the modern city.
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