Someone gives you directions: “From Eleventh East, drive west on South Temple to Seventh East. Turn left and go south on Seventh to Thirty-ninth South, and then west on Thirty-ninth South to 398 East.” You start driving and soon you’ll either have reached your destination (398 East 3900 South) or you’ll be wishing someone would just help you find the fastest way out of this crazy town. Relax! Nowhere is there a community more logically planned than Salt Lake City. And logical means easy to understand.

Salt Lake’s unique street numbering system is almost identical in concept to that of longitude and latitude. Think of the point at which the Equator intersects the Greenwich Meridian – in other words, 0 degrees longitude and 0 degrees latitude. On the globe, that zero-point is just south of Ghana off the West African Coast. In Salt Lake City, it’s at Temple Square. Salt Lake is laid out on a simple grid system. Virtually every address in the city has a set of two coordinates telling how far east or west and how far north or south it is from Temple Square (or the corner of Main and South Temple Streets to be exact). Although an address such as 682 East 400 South may look strange to you, just remember that it simply describes a location on the grid. Consequently, both “halves” of the address (“682 East” and “400 South”) are equally significant, the second half being the street name and the first half being a specific point on that street. Even streets with names (Harvard Avenue, for instance) also have a numbered “coordinate.” If you were looking for Harvard Avenue, it would be helpful for you to know that its coordinate is 1175 south.

Driving east from Temple Square, you’ll find that the numbers on the street signs get larger. You’ll come to 5th East, 9th East, 13th East, etc. These streets run parallel to Main Street, which borders Temple Square on the East. Driving south from Temple Square, you’ll reach 4th South, 17th South, 39th South, 45th South, etc. These run parallel to South Temple, which borders Temple Square on the south. The same principle holds true, of course, when traveling north from North Temple or west from West Temple. Simple so far, right?

And yet a couple of things still tend to confuse out-of-towners. To begin with, the street signs will generally say both “Fifth East” (the street name) and “500 East” (the coordinate). In order to make sense of this seeming discrepancy, imagine a decimal point just prior to the two right-most digits. Once you recognize that Fifth East = 5.00 East = 500 East, the battle’s half won. Any way you look at it, you’re talking about a street 5 blocks east Temple Square, running parallel to Main Street. Likewise, 350 West is really 3.50 West. That’s 3½ (or 3.5) blocks west of Temple Square. To find a business located at 1633 East 4500 South, look first at the second half of the address. Your destination is located on Forty-fifth South, the street which runs parallel to and is 45 blocks south of South Temple Street. The first part of the address, 1633 East, designates where on 45th South the business is – in this case, 16 and one third blocks east of Main Street. (That’s over 8 miles – better consider driving!)

Which brings us to one last thought. Think of a “block” as a unit of measure. There are just under seven blocks to the mile in Salt Lake. And because a “street” is not necessarily the same as a “block”, it’s important to understand the difference. For instance, if you were walking from Fifth East to Sixth East, you might pass Oak Street. The sign on the corner would give both its name, “Oak Street”, and its coordinate, “525 East” (think 5.25 East). In other words, the distance between Fifth East and Sixth East is one block, while the distance between Fifth East and the first street east of it is only about ¼ of a block. See how easy? Now, go enjoy Salt Lake City!