Hiding in plain sight old phone exchanges

It’s a little unnerving that the who-to-call signs for elevator maintenance issues in many buildings are so old, their phone number starts with a two-letter exchange officially dropped in the 1960s. 

Like this one, with SU for Susquehanna. I wonder why that name was assigned to the Upper West Side?

Hopefully they’ve done more recent elevator inspections. . . .

This real estate company ad in midtown helpfully provides the full name of the exchange, ORegon.

If you look really hard, you can make out the exchange on this barely hanging on commercial real estate ad near Canal Street.

JU for Judson, the name of the 19th century church still standing on Washington Square South.

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9 Responses to “Hiding in plain sight old phone exchanges”

  1. andyinsdca Says:

    It looks like the elevator repair # now belongs to an individual. But the OR9-5500 STILL goes to Adams Real Estate!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    They’re still in business? Good to know!

  3. Nabe News: April 5 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] old two-letter phone exchanges discovered across town [Ephemeral […]

  4. Paul Says:

    So where is the Elevator Alarm Bell exactly? I am old enough to remember the location exchanges. Ours was Nightingale-6 4915. Those were the days. It was especially good that one didn’t have to dial one before the number. I wonder if some people even back then considered certain exchanges higher class than others.

  5. petey Says:

    “The unconventional title of the novel and film (capitalized “B” and “U”) derives from the pattern of old telephone exchange names in the United States and Canada. Prior to the advent of digital technology, telephone exchanges were named instead of being numbered. BUtterfield 8 (originally simply BUTterfield; the “8” corresponds to “T” on the dial; in 1930 exchanges were changed to two letters and a digit, in order to make more telephone numbers available) was the name of the exchange that provided service to ritzy precincts of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.”
    that must be in 10021. i’m in 10028 and had RE growing up.

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    RE is for Regent. I wonder why. Perhaps an old theater or hotel. Petey, do you know?

  7. Jill Says:

    the phone number of the Hayden planetarium used to be TR3-0404. The letters made it so much easier to remember.

  8. Richard Says:

    It is amazing how the old exchanges stick in one’s memory. It’s over 40 years ago since they were used but I still remember my old Brooklyn house’s number (CLoverdale 8), my number when I became I teenager (DEwey 8), my father’s business (Union Square-based) numbers (CHelsea 3, which given the neighborhood, made sense), as well as the numbers of my Brooklyn grandparents (ULster 2, HYacinth 4) and great-grandparents (GEdney 8). Around 1960 a new kid moved into the neighborhood and we all laughed when he told us his phone exchange was RN something — using non-name lettered exchanges was the brief precursor to all numbers. How unromantic.

  9. Michael Leddy Says:

    I just watched the Naked City episode “SUsquehannah 4-7568” and found my way to this post. Thanks for the signage.

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