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#1
Old 02-26-2010, 12:32 PM
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What's the story with apartment numbers like "3G" and "5A"? Is it a NYC thing?

Every apartment building I've lived in, or even visited, uses just a numeral to identify individual units, of which the first one or two digits indicates the floor. But in TV shows, movies, and novels the characters often live in 3G or 5A. Presumably the number is the floor, and the letter identifies the unit on the floor, which is pretty straightforward and simple if there aren't more than 26 units on the floor.

IIRC Jerry Seinfeld "lived" in 5A, in his show; then there used to be a long-running dramatic comic strip Apartment 3G. But do they still use this numbering scheme IRL? Is there any common thread running through the buildings where it is used--for instance, are they generally older structures? Are they bigger, better, and more desirable apartments? Or do they tend to be coops or condos rather than rentals?

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 02-26-2010 at 12:32 PM.
#2
Old 02-26-2010, 12:40 PM
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The last apartment I lived in used letters. This was in the 1980s in Southern California. It was street address + letter for all your mail. IIRC, I lived at 1423D.
#3
Old 02-26-2010, 12:53 PM
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Hereabouts you see it in old buildings - the boyfriend lived in 11F when I met him. That was the oldest highrise in town, though.
#4
Old 02-26-2010, 01:02 PM
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Not just New York, I am sure.

I lived in an apartment complex that used letters in Calgary Alberta Canada. It was about 18 buildings that were in a large crescent around a park in the middle. Each building was numbered & each apartment has a letter. At one time I lived in 12L and later moved to 4G.

The were rather "project-like" buildings, built in the late 1940's for single war vets. The apartments were huge, but in poor repair. I would have stayed longer too, had they not been planning on condoizing & rebuilding them all.
#5
Old 02-26-2010, 01:09 PM
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My dorm has numbers for the floor and letters for the room. So someone living on the fourth floor would be 4A or 4B or 4C or...
#6
Old 02-26-2010, 01:09 PM
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My apartment number here in Panama City is 15A.
#7
Old 02-26-2010, 01:10 PM
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Some parts of suburban Atlanta, Georgia had the same scheme in the 1980s.
They probably do now as well.
#8
Old 02-26-2010, 01:39 PM
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"TYLER: Raymond K. Hessel. 1320 SE Benning, apartment A. Small, cramped basement apartment, Raymond?
RAYMOND: How'd you know?
TYLER Because they give shitty basement apartments letters instead of numbers. Raymond, you are going to die."

-Fight Club

If it's a combined system like that, maybe the number is a building or floor designator, and the letter is the individual apartment?
#9
Old 02-26-2010, 01:55 PM
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One of the most famous of all time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/221b_Baker_Street
#10
Old 02-26-2010, 02:08 PM
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Every apartment I have lived in was numbered in the form NX, where N is a floor number and X is a letter.
#11
Old 02-26-2010, 02:52 PM
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For several years I lived in Los Angeles in an apartment, the address for which was something like 1234 Main St. Apartment F.

Just a single letter for the apartment "number".

Last edited by suranyi; 02-26-2010 at 02:52 PM.
#12
Old 02-26-2010, 02:58 PM
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Apartment 3-G is still running, btw.

What was the Golden Girls joke?

Blanche: I haven't read Apartment 3-G since 1965!
Rose: Well, it's later that same afternoon...
#13
Old 02-26-2010, 02:59 PM
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Apartment owners can do naming any way they like, so there isn't always a consensus about it. I've never been to New York (lived in CA and WA), but I've seen plenty of places use numbers and letters.

One trend I've seen is that letters often get brought in at the beginning to designate buildings. A-305 at one place meant Building A, Floor 3, Unit 5. B-3 at another place composed of several triplexes meant Building B, Unit 3.

In terms of using letters for apartments instead of numbers, there are advantages for largish buildings that have many units per floor. A-Z gives you 26 apartments per floor without needing two digits. Since brass letters cost a couple of bucks each, that's enough to justify it for a lot of cheap landlords. Plus, using M instead of 13 avoids superstition problems.
#14
Old 02-26-2010, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus View Post
Presumably the number is the floor, and the letter identifies the unit on the floor, which is pretty straightforward and simple if there aren't more than 26 units on the floor.
Not always. My last apartment building had the floors labeled with letters and the apartments on that floor labeled with numbers.

I never could figure out why this was, but thinking about it now, it makes a lot of sense. It was a pre-war 5 story walk up split into wings. It would suck to climb all the way up to the 5th floor looking for 5E only to find that the top floors were all 3-bedrooms, could only fit 4 apartments, and the one you were looking for was in the other wing. So what they did was run the letters down from the top floor labeled:

Wing1--------Wing2
A----------------F
B----------------G
C----------------H
D----------------I
E----------------J

If you were looking for 4-F, you would see that the bottom floor of wing1 was E so it must be the top floor of wing2.

Of course, getting the elevator just made things more confusing since in there the floors were labeled with numbers. This made ordering take out an adventure. ("Yeah, I'm in Apartment 7 on Floor F which is the 5th floor in the 2nd elevator." "Whaaa? You want food you come down now!")

Last edited by Crawlspace; 02-26-2010 at 03:35 PM.
#15
Old 02-26-2010, 04:11 PM
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Then there was a numbering scheme with fractions that you rarely see anymore. I once lived in a Los Angeles single-story building with four units per street number (8 units for 2 street numbers, actually). They were numbered 2052, 2052 1/4, 2052 1/2, 2052 3/4, 2054, 2054 1/4...

I often wanted to address mail to 2052.75 instead of fractions, but I don't think the post office would have been amused. They have trouble with square envelopes, charging more since they are non-rectangular.
#16
Old 02-26-2010, 04:15 PM
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In grad school, I lived in an apartment complex with three attached buildings. The buildings were 10, 7, and 4 stories tall, and the buildings were associated with letters. The first year, I lived in 419A (in the 10 story building), the second year, I lived in 404C (the 4 story building).

I'm unsure if the 8th, 9th and 10th floor apartments in building A had a letter designation, but I assume that they did.
#17
Old 02-26-2010, 04:21 PM
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In Baltimore, lots of old rowhouses have been converted into apartments, usually with two apartments per floor. Apartments are usually designated by the letter F and R, for Front and Rear.
#18
Old 02-26-2010, 04:21 PM
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It's definitely not an NYC thing. I used to live in apartments in NC, DC and CA, all of which had number+letter addresses.

ETA: One was a new apartment complex (letters referred to apt. units within the numbered buildings), one was a rowhouse where the letters designated flats (floors) in the rowhouse, and one was an old Victorian hotel that was converted into an apartment building.

Last edited by Pray for peace; 02-26-2010 at 04:24 PM.
#19
Old 02-26-2010, 04:43 PM
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My building (a nine-story with six apartments per floor) is just numbers, but most of the apartments in the graduate housing area here are a mixture of letters and numbers. The building has a number, and then each unit in that building (4-8 each) has a letter. I think it's partly to help break up the address a bit: An address like "1033 Grant Chamberlain" wouldn't tell you whether it's the 33rd unit in building 10 or the 3rd unit in building 103-- You'd need a hyphen or something. But "103C Grant Chamberlain" makes it clear that you should first find building 103, then look for unit C in it.
#20
Old 02-26-2010, 05:06 PM
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There's a practical reason for designating apartment with a number/letter combination. In many buildings the floor plan is the same on every floor. For instance, apartment 3-A would be directly above apartment 2-A. Utilities and risers usually go up vertically. If there is a problem or need to designate a service area the location can be easily identified. "We have a problem in the "A" line or the "M" line or whatever. Also, those services are often zoned so that service to one zone can be shut down without turning off the entire building. Therefore, in the building there might be a notice such as "On Thursday we have to make plumbing repairs in the "D" line. Water will be shut off from 10 am to 12 noon."

Last edited by R. P. McMurphy; 02-26-2010 at 05:07 PM.
#21
Old 02-26-2010, 06:39 PM
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I lived in an NYC apartment that went Letter-Number, where the letter indicated the floor. It was very counter-intuitive and annoying for food deliveries. Fortunately, I lived in D-4 so I never had to explain that the entire fourth floor was "D."
#22
Old 02-26-2010, 07:46 PM
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I stayed in an apartment in a building labelled like this in Calpe, Spain, in the early 90s. I think it was a rather tall building - at least 12 stories - but I don't have a sense of how many apartments there were per floor. Quite a few, but probably not 26. It was a nice big place; three bedrooms plus a den, IIRC.

I see a few A and B apartments here in Montreal, but those seem to be to distinguish smaller apartments carved from larger homes, say a single-family building 1234 with a bachelor's apartment built into the basement, it becomes 1234A and 1234B.
#23
Old 02-26-2010, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malleus, Incus, Stapes! View Post
My dorm has numbers for the floor and letters for the room. So someone living on the fourth floor would be 4A or 4B or 4C or...
I lived in a dorm where each suite had a number, and each bedspace had a letter. For example I lived in a double suite with 3 other guys. The suite number was 312 (I don't remember the exact number, but it was on the 3rd floor). When you walked in to the vestibule there were 4 doors (toilet, shower, and 2 bedrooms). The bedroom on the left had A&B the one on the right was D&C. The left side of each room was A or C, the right side B or D. I was D. It sounds strange, but each room had 2 phone jacks, 2 internet jacks, and 2 cable jacks. There was a set of jacks on both sides of the room and we had to order our own individual services from the University (cable was included in rent).
#24
Old 02-26-2010, 08:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
"TYLER: Raymond K. Hessel. 1320 SE Benning, apartment A. Small, cramped basement apartment, Raymond?
RAYMOND: How'd you know?
TYLER Because they give shitty basement apartments letters instead of numbers. Raymond, you are going to die."

-Fight Club

If it's a combined system like that, maybe the number is a building or floor designator, and the letter is the individual apartment?
In my building in Toronto, the apartments start with 101 on the first floor, 201 on the second floor, and 301 on the third floor. The lowly basement dwellers get C1, B1, and A1.

Last edited by Sunspace; 02-26-2010 at 08:19 PM.
#25
Old 02-26-2010, 09:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo View Post
Every apartment I have lived in was numbered in the form NX, where N is a floor number and X is a letter.
Its a great system for construction and maintenance purposes.

Think of the building as a grid, where the floor number is the horizontal axis and the "line" letter, as it is called, is the vertical axis.

The plumbing, electrical and communication in these buildings is configured vertically and problems occur vertically........a plumbing problem in 10B is more likely to affect other"B" line apartments than other 10 floor apartments.

You will also notice buzzers and mailboxes configured around the vertical axis
1A
2A
3A
4A
1B
2B
3B
4B

Rather than

1A
1B
1C
1D
2A
2B
etc.

It's much easier to wire the buzzer panel this way, because the wiring is vertical down each line rather than horizontal across each floor.

And as for the mailboxes, large buildings often have multiple zip+4's..............my 80 unit building has 8, and they are allocated by line.........All the A+B apartments share a zip code, all the C+D apartments have the next zip, etc .

This is how the mailboxes (4 large banks of them located in a semi-public area) are arranged --and since the building is older than the zip code system I can only assume the mailbox layout dictated the zip code system -- not the other way around.

Of course none of this really explains why letters and not a second set of numbers and all I can offer is that it is a lot clearer........Also I've never seen the letters I or O used as a line number and J is optional.
#26
Old 02-26-2010, 09:20 PM
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I lived in Spain for a while, over 30 years ago. The apartment building I lived in designated the apartments by number and then letter. So it's not just a NYC thing, or even a US thing.

That apartment building also had a small grocery and deli on the ground floor, which was very convenient. All the Spaniards got a kick out of my heavily accented Spanish, because not only did I have an American English accent, when they were used to UK English accents, but I had learned Mexican flavored Spanish, since I took Spanish in Texas. So sometimes I was using the wrong word...sort of like lorry/truck and lift/elevator.
#27
Old 02-26-2010, 09:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Then there was a numbering scheme with fractions that you rarely see anymore. I once lived in a Los Angeles single-story building with four units per street number (8 units for 2 street numbers, actually). They were numbered 2052, 2052 1/4, 2052 1/2, 2052 3/4, 2054, 2054 1/4...

I often wanted to address mail to 2052.75 instead of fractions, but I don't think the post office would have been amused. They have trouble with square envelopes, charging more since they are non-rectangular.
Where I grew up, the county roads parallel to the state line were numbered with the distance from that state line (26 Road, 30 Road, etc.). The roads perpendicular were lettered (A Rd, B Rd, etc), 1 mile apart between subsequent letters. For roads that ran between, they appended a fraction; e.g., I lived on a road called E 1/2 Rd. There were some roads (before subdivisions came in) named G 3/4, F 7/10, 29 1/2 Rd.

A few times, I got mail that had been misaddressed, but amazingly got delivered. I must've given my address over the phone as "E and 1/2", and whoever transcribed it as "E.5", which got delivered. Then somewhile later, someone read that as "East 5th Rd", then "East Fifth St" (spelled out). It may've helped that we had a unique last name in the entire county.
#28
Old 02-27-2010, 01:45 AM
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In the UK you will sometimes see houses with a number and a letter. The usual reason for this is that a newer house has been built between two existing houses. So 31A would be located between 31 and 33. This also happens when an existing house has been subdivided into two or more flats.
#29
Old 02-27-2010, 04:21 AM
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Number for floor and letter for apartment is the norm through most of Latin America. In building complexes, there is also a letter first that indicates the building. So B-6-D means apartment D in floor 6 of building B.

I think it works better than using numbers for both floor and apartment when you normally have buildings with more than 10 floors and/or more than 10 apartments per floor. Is apartment 312 apartment 12 on the 3rd floor or apartment 2 on the 31st floor? You don't know until you are at the building and see how it works. You know what 31B or 3L is before you get there and you don't have to check anything once you do.
#30
Old 02-27-2010, 05:50 AM
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I live in flat 2/3 - i.e. the 3rd door (of 3) on the 2nd floor (3rd floor to Americans) but some databases can't cope with calling it 2/3, so it's also flat 6. (There are no flats on the ground floor)

Confusingly (especially for new postmen) the ground floor does have two doors that look like front doors (but are side doors into the stair from the maindoor flats on either side) so our door is actually the 8th door you come to!
#31
Old 02-27-2010, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWB View Post
Where I grew up, the county roads parallel to the state line were numbered with the distance from that state line (26 Road, 30 Road, etc.). The roads perpendicular were lettered (A Rd, B Rd, etc), 1 mile apart between subsequent letters. For roads that ran between, they appended a fraction; e.g., I lived on a road called E 1/2 Rd. There were some roads (before subdivisions came in) named G 3/4, F 7/10, 29 1/2 Rd.
.
Grand Junction/Fruita CO?
#32
Old 02-27-2010, 11:11 AM
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In Chicago, I've lived in buildings with letter-number and with number-letter combos (the first being the floor, the second being the unit). I lived in 3D for awhile, then I moved to B-52!
#33
Old 02-27-2010, 05:43 PM
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Most high rise condo / apartments I've seen across the US use the floor/unit = number/letter method. Not so much in low-rise 2 and 3 story facilities.

8A or 23-J would be very typical unit identifiers.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 02-27-2010 at 05:44 PM.
#34
Old 02-27-2010, 05:57 PM
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I lived in a SoCal apartment complex once with multiple small buildings on the site, so the buildings were given a letter and the units got a number. 6G is building G, unit 6.
#35
Old 02-27-2010, 09:18 PM
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I was in 14-B3 in my last apartment before buying a house.

Building 14, B for the second floor and Apartment 3.
#36
Old 02-28-2010, 03:47 AM
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Most apartments are multilevel, and the numbers refer to the level; my apartment was multi-building and the numbers referred to building. FWIW I lived on Eastern Long Island (suburbs).

Last edited by jackdavinci; 02-28-2010 at 03:48 AM.
#37
Old 02-28-2010, 04:42 AM
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For the building in which I live, in Busan, it's a tax dodge. It's a four-floor building and each floor has five apartments. The problem with that, though, is there's a higher tax for the building owner to pay if there are more than 19 apartments in the building. The dodge is to put a foyer in front of the last two apartments on the fourth floor. The foyer is the entry to Apartment 404 and the nurse next door to me lives in Room 404A while I live in Room 404B.
#38
Old 02-28-2010, 05:07 AM
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It's the usual scheme in Spain. My mother's flat is 9B; mine is 3B; Middlebro lives at 3B; Lilbro at 1A (not in the same building). The number is the level, the letter is the door. If there are only two doors, they may be called "left" and "right" instead.
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Last edited by Nava; 02-28-2010 at 05:08 AM.
#39
Old 03-06-2010, 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Kevbo View Post
Grand Junction/Fruita CO?
Exactly! Over by Central High School.
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