Hickory’s Streets, Avenues, Courts…

As I was mailing a Christmas card to a friend in Hickory, I was reminded about how confusing the town’s street system is to me. Has anyone else had the same experience?

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s my friend’s address (with the house number changed to protect his privacy):

100 44th Ave Ct NE

44th Avenue Court Northeast???? How can an avenue be a court?


I used the NC Maps project to see if I could find an older map of Hickory that shows the system, but I didn’t find one. I did find the image above, which is a detail from the 1919 Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Hickory. The numbered streets and avenues don’t line up in a true grid, but it does at least seem to make little bit of sense. I definitely didn’t see any “Avenue Courts NE.” When did this change? How was the system developed? What is its rhyme or reason?

I’m throwing this question out to the blogosphere. Come on all of you Hickorites…help me understand how this system works!

9 thoughts on “Hickory’s Streets, Avenues, Courts…”

  1. This post begs an even more important question. What are the residents of Hickory called? Is Jason right — Hickorites?

  2. According to local wags, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the good citizens of Hickory purposely named their streets using the most confusing system possible. That way, if ever invaded, only the locals would know what was where.

    Doesn’t “Hickorite” sound like some tribe needing to be smote by the ancient Israelites?

  3. From “How Hickory arrived at its confusing streets” by Kathryn Wellin in the Charlotte Observer’s Catawba Neighbors section, Nov. 24, 2002:

    “In the 1930s, Hickory’s parameters and street systems expanded as three cities — Hickory, West Hickory and Highland — merged.

    “In 1950, the city stepped in with a new street plan to tame the mishmash of dead-end and discontinuous roads that picked up blocks from their origin, four of the same-named roads per quadrant and mass confusion.

    “The city hired John Parker, the first dean of UNC Chapel Hill’s regional and city planning school, to unify the street names and addresses.

    “By 1951, Parker had divided the city into four quadrants, N.E., N.W., S.E. and S.W., and numbered the streets starting at center city. The numbers increase moving away from Center Street and the railroad tracks, with the avenues running east to west, parallel to the tracks.

    “Anything with a street in the name runs north-south. So First Street N.E. means you are one block northeast of Center Street.

    “House numbers are also clues. The 15 in 1526 signifies that the nearest cross-street is 15th Street. Usually. The 26 means it’s the 26th house on that 1500-block and on the right side of the street as you move from the center of town. Even-numbered houses fall on the right, odd-numbered on the left.

    “Enter drives. Drives are winding thoroughfares that couldn’t conform to life as a street or avenue. So Eighth Street Drive N.E. starts out north-south, like a street, at its closest to center city and then wends its way off the grid.

    “The one concession is there are no mere drives — always street-drives and avenue-drives. So drives always begin east-west or north-south.

    ” ‘There is some logic behind it, even if it doesn’t appear that way on the surface,’ said assistant city manager Tom Carr.”

  4. Somehow I knew that Lew would come through with an answer!

    Although the comment explains the system, I am 100% positive that without a native Hickorian in the car with me…I’d still get lost in Hickory.

  5. I lived in Hickory for a while. The street that I lived on had five unconnected segments spread across the town. Giving directions to my house was almost impossible.

  6. And that’s why we chose Center St. The center of Center St. Right beside the Y parking lot. Anywhere else and I’d still be wandering.

  7. l loved the system! To me it was so easy to find where you needed to go. I was there when the system changed. When I later returned to Hickory (many years later) I could still find my way around. What made it nice: Knowing the system you could in your mind know exactly where you need to go. I know as the city has grown “someones” have not followed the system which makes it harder to locate places out from the center of town. Several years ago I went to visit a friend and following the system I remembered I had trouble finding her home. With persistence, I finally located it. I still like the system and wish other cities had it, like Charlotte, NC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *