A vintage phone exchange on West 14th Street

I’ve always been a big fan of Desco Vacuum’s old-school store signage on 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.


The vertical sign feels very 1970s. Plus, how many vacuum cleaners are advertised in neon these days?

BorosignexchangeBut until recently, I never noticed the phone number with the vintage two-letter exchange at the bottom.

The sign maker is Boro Sign, located in Borough Park.

TR likely stood for Triangle, which covered parts of Brooklyn, according to this wonderful chart.

There’s also TR for Trafalgar, in Manhattan, and TR for Tremont, in the Bronx.

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7 Responses to “A vintage phone exchange on West 14th Street”

  1. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    TR 5 is definitely TRiangle 5 in Brooklyn. TR 1, 5, and possibly 6 were all TRiangle. TRafalgar was only TR 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9; TRemont was only TR 2, 3, and 8. (Note that both TRemont 3 and TRafalgar 3 existed — but at different times. TRemont 3 was in the early 1930s, but discontinued in 1934. TRafalgar 3 was first started in about 1946 or 1947. Actually, while I have seen a directory listing a TRiangle 6 exchange, the conflict with TRafalgar 6 means that I suspect that was in error.)

  2. vastlycurious.com Says:

    Remember when phone numbers were so easy !!!

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks BG. I wish we know why some of these exchange names were chosen–I’m not aware of anything related to Trafalgar in Brooklyn.

  4. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    TRafalgar was in Manhattan, not Brooklyn. Tere were a lot of British-sounding exchanges. Brooklyn once had a WIndsor — though those exchanges were canged to GEdney in the 1940s. And Mankattan had (at one time, though it was later discontinued) a TIllinghast.

    I suspect the thing was that the phone company people just wanted to come up with names that began with the right letters, in many cases. Why did northern Manhattan have a LOrraine (my own exchange as a kid)?They had to distinguish it from LOngacre further south — though that one had a reason for being (Times Sq. used to be Longacre Sq.)

  5. velvethead Says:

    Boy, that sign held up well.

  6. Beege Says:

    TR was also used in (dowtown) Brooklyn. It stood for TRiangle.

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