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Before Amsterdam had house numbering, they had a curious way of identifying addresses. Each house and building in the city used to have a stone plaque, called gable stone (gevelstenen in Dutch), that was carved and colorfully painted depicting the function the building served. For instance, the gable stone of a paper mill would show the various stages of the paper-making process, and the gable stone of at the butchers’ inspectors office showed in intricate details the carcass of a slaughtered cow while officials in blue coats inspected the quality of the meat.

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The gable stone of a wine press. Photo credit: Jim Forest/Flickr

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