Monday, May 28, 2018
Where in the World is 3006 Pine Street?
If you are like me, this holiday weekend, you are probably spending some time on the road. That means, in this era of life, that you and I head to new places, smart-phone routing device in hand (or safely stowed in a legislation-approved holder on our dashboard).
It isn't much of a stretch, when faced with an unknown address from one hundred years ago, to pull out that same cell phone and Google the address. So, still puzzling about the postcard of Susie and Juanita that I found abandoned in an antique store in northern California, I did just that. I pulled up Google Maps and looked for 3006 Pine Street in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Google Maps quickly obliged and gave me this scenario:
Pine Street, as it appears on this Google Map, was a short street abridged by the campus of Harris-Stowe State University. I wondered if the college was in existence at the time in which our photo postcard was sent. Whether it was in existence at that same location is unclear from this brief history of the college, but it was a school in existence as early as 1857. This led me to wonder whether the Ira in the letter had been away from home to embark on his college education.
That, however, turns out to be not quite the way things were, back in the early 1900s. To have left it at this assumption would not give us the full picture—let alone the full sense of confusion I've since arrived at. One thing to remember is that many cities, at the turn of that century, underwent a change in numbering system for addresses, usually to adopt a more logical layout for locating specific addresses within the city.
Judging from indications in directories for the city of Saint Louis, that may have been the case for our Ira's address. His likely was a location not far from the university, as it turns out from the last entry in this note in Gould's Red Book of the City of St. Louis for 1911:
Note for the address, 3006 Pine Street, the nearest cross-street would be Garrison Avenue. That, in the map above, would be where Olive Street runs off the top of the map by the two blue squares—a part of the campus which subsequently obliterated the extension of Pine Street in that direction. Wherever Ira once lived, it is no longer a location in existence.
Just looking up the same detail in the city directory for 1913 provided the same result. However, a curious result also pops up: when looking at the actual entries in the directory, the first address listed was for 3013 Pine Street, implying there wasn't even an address at that lower number.
That entry, however, was for the family of W. H. Gregg, providing me with a name to use to quickly locate that enumeration district in the 1910 census. Checking for the Gregg family's census entry, though, led me to realize one more thing about this elusive Ira and his non-existent address: it didn't show up in the census record, either. The census record for the even numbered addresses on Pine Street showed an entry for 3002 and 3004, then skipped to 3010 (or perhaps 3014, as the chicken scratch utilized for this record made the distinction unclear).
Just in case, I took a look around all the census pages for that neighborhood to see if college student Ira may have moved to a different apartment that year, but there was no sign of anyone named Ira in the neighborhood.
My next resort was to take to scouring the city directories for all the possible years—the stamp box on the postcard I found was used between the years 1906 and 1912—which did provide several possibilities of men named Ira in Saint Louis. Whether any of them were the right person—none of whom lived on Pine Street at any house number—would enter us into a guessing game far beyond the magnitude I'm equipped to handle at this point. We may have to suffice ourselves with hoping for virtual cousin bait to send out a strong signal. And wait for a nibble.
In the meantime, this exercise has reminded me of a couple things. First, it reminded me of how exhausting an exhaustive search can be. Not that I'm anywhere near calling this exhaustive, of course, but it was a good start.
Second—and this is more to the point—there are some issues in genealogical research which require us to know a bit about the history of the place where our relatives once lived. This is especially so if we ever hope to find their old homes, or learn more about the neighborhoods they once roamed. Discovering that little bit of family lore includes learning the history of street numbering systems and other organizational devices—did you notice the entry telling which street car line to take to access Pine Street?—to better understand how our specific ancestors fit into the larger scheme of things in the place they called home.