More old-school phone exchanges

This old-timey sign belongs to a store on Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill. the UL exchange stood for Ulster.

But what was Ulster? It’s a mystery. A New York Times article from February 1947 announced that 4,200 households in Flatbush “who have wanted telephone installations since the beginning of the war” would be getting UL numbers.


Strangely, Joe’s Superette, on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, also has a UL number. That’s a bit of a hike from Myrtle Avenue.


Meanwhile, on a residential building in Harlem, the “In Case of Emergency” number above still stands next to an elevator shaft. LE for Lenox Avenue.

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6 Responses to “More old-school phone exchanges”

  1. mars tokyo Says:

    Ulster is a county in New York, across the Hudson from Dutchess County (Poughkeepsie). Originally it’s a county in Ireland.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Usually old phone exchanges are tied into a neighborhood street or landmark, like LE for Lenox Ave. But I’ve never heard of Ulster Street or an Ulster factory in the area.

  3. helcat Says:

    When I was a kid, our exchange was LE5 – it stood for LeHigh, not Lenox.
    Christ I can’t believe I remember this. I’m only 43.

  4. Annie Says:

    Ulster is, of course, of Irish heritage, and many many Irish-Americans found their way to Brooklyn. That’s the connection I always knew.

    There were some Ulster numbers downtown, and others in the Flatbush area, but those did not share the same third digit.

  5. Chip Says:

    It is unlikely that it is connected to Ireland. Many, if not most, exchanges were named for geographic areas in or close to the city (SHoreroad, SHeepshead, WYcoff, MIdwood et al). Almost certainly the ULster exchange was named for Ulster County, which is only an hour or two from New York. Just as GEdney exchange was named for Gedney N.Y. in Westchester county, just north of the city.

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