A Little Italy sign reveals an old phone exchange

They’re hiding in plain sight all over New York: faded ads and signs with the old-school two-letter phone prefixes phased out in the 1960s in favor of 7-digit phone numbers.

Usually they stand for something in the neighborhood, if not the neighborhood itself, such as MU for Murray Hill; RA for Ravenswood, once a separate Village in Queens but now absorbed by Astoria.

But what to make of this sign high above a restaurant on Mott Street in Little Italy, noting a BA prefix? The guide I usually consult to find out where BA is and what it means is no longer online. The elevator company could have been located anywhere in the city.

ENY has many posts on old-school prefix sightings, but no BA, unfortunately.

28 Responses to “A Little Italy sign reveals an old phone exchange”

  1. Peter Bennett Says:

    I’m thinking maybe Baronet

  2. Zoe Says:

    Next to it is a piece of street art?

  3. Bob Says:

    “Bruce, a colleague of mine, grew up in the Grand Concourse area of the Bronx, with a home WEllington 5 exchange that wasn’t as tony, he says, as BAinbridge, over near Mosholu Parkway. […] It’s my theory that, back in the telephonic Eocene, New York Tel wanted to comfort its better patrons with exchange names that suggested brokerage firms or Waspy lawyers, and came up with WIckersham, VAnderbilt, BOgardus, BArclay, and BUtterfield. ”

    The New Yorker February 10, 2003 Issue
    “Dial Again”
    By Roger Angell

  4. Eric Says:

    BAldwin. http://ourwebhome.com/TENP/Recommended.html

  5. Johannah Turner Says:

    There was a BAldwin exchange on Long Island.

  6. mitzanna Says:

    That rings a bell ! ;-)) I used to be a switchboard operator. BArclay-7 or BAinbridge-7 or any BA-7 was the exchange where the elevator company was located.

  7. armdis Says:

    I happen to be an elevator mechanic. That is the phone number for Burlington Elevator, out of Jersey City. They still have a Manhattan area code.

    • Bob Says:

      In the 1946 Manhattan Telephone Book, Burwak Elevator, the previous name of the same Burlington Elevator, was listed on page 186 at 246 Fulton Street at the phone number “BA[rclay] 7-9231”

      See Telephone Book at http://www.donslist.net/
      See more on Burlington Elevator at burlingtonfamily.com/HJB/burlington-burwak.html

  8. Susan Says:

    I believe that exchange was Baxter.

  9. John Lynch Says:

    It stands for Baxter, a street in that area.

  10. Ty Says:

    I think BArclay was downtown around Barclay Street.

  11. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Looks like Barclay or Baxter. Thanks all!

  12. Carolyn Lalli Says:

    BA was the telephone exchange for Bayside, located in Queens. My grandparents resided in Bayside and their phone number began with BA. Hope this resolves the mystery.

  13. Emily Berleth Says:

    I think it is BAyside.

  14. Michael Leddy Says:

    A comment in the archives at the Telephone EXchange Name Project says BArclay:

    “This was a downtown NYC exchange – now 227 – around the City Hall area, Chinatown area of Lower Manhattan. I lived and went to school in this area in the early 70’s which was the end of the era of name/letter tel exchanges in NYC.”

    You can find this comment by searching for the BA exchange and NY (under state) in the archives of the Telephone EXchange Name Project. Exchange names were still somehow in the air in the 1970s — I have bookmarks from the Gotham and the Strand, c. late 1970s, that have exchange names.

  15. Untapped Staff Reads: Prospect Park Goes Car-Free, Old Phone Exchange in Little Italy Revealed | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] A Little Italy sign reveals an old phone exchange [Ephemeral New York]: They’re hiding in plain sight all over New York: faded ads and signs with the old-school two-letter phone prefixes phased out in the 1960s in favor of 7-digit phone numbers. […]

  16. bbob Says:

    Great post! I think it may be for BAxter rather than BArclay becuase it’s further north….more background in this article~

  17. Florence Marmor Says:

    BA stands for Barclay..

  18. pontifikator Says:

    I lived in Little Italy/SoHo in the early 70’s (so near the location depicted) and my phone number started with 226, the “22” possibly BA before that.

  19. Tom Tito Says:

    Does anyone know where the name Gibraltar for GI came from.

  20. Gail Fanelli Says:

    226 was CAnal 6.

  21. Jamie Says:

    Lived in the Village in 70’s YU9-5570 and on 6th Ave @30th St JU6-2590

  22. mitzanna Says:

    YUkon was also a Staten Island exchange around Stapleton.

  23. An East Side sign with an old New York address | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] more examples of old phone exchanges found around the modern city. And postal codes too: this one was hiding on East 10th […]

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