Obscure Manhattan phone exchanges

This one was spotted in a building on Park Place where some city agencies have offices. SW might stand for Swinburne—but why? The only Swinburne reference I’m aware of is Swinburne Island in New York Harbor.


On East First Street, a reminder of the East Village’s working class past, and the neighborhood’s proximity to GRamercy Park:


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6 Responses to “Obscure Manhattan phone exchanges”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Back in the early 60s my first phone was LF 3, I thought it stood for Lafayette but the clerk looked at me and shrugged, ‘No, it means Left Foot,’ she said. Left Foot it is…I certainly miss that exchange.

    • Bruce R. Gilson Says:

      LF3 was one of those “stand for nothing” exchanges that the phone company started around 1960. They were trying to wean people away from exchange names at that time.

  2. petey Says:

    there is a website for old manhattan exchanges … i’ll try to look it up today

  3. Sean Says:

    IF I recall, Abetta was located on the north side of First St, just north a few doors up from First Avenue, until at least the 80s. It still may be there. It was a one-story tax-payer garage-style bldg.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    Yep, it’s still there!

  5. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    SW 5 was SWinburne, you’re correct about that one. The SWinburne exchanges started in the 1950s. Probably named for a poet, as I never heard of the island.

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