What did the FA phone exchange stand for?

While enjoying the views along Edgecombe Avenue in Upper Manhattan, I spotted this rusted sign containing an old two-letter phone exchange, once ubiquitous in New York until they were phased out in the 1960s.

The FA exchange is a mystery. Gun Hill is a road in the Bronx, and the Gun Hill Fence Company, founded in 1959, still operates in the Bronx, now in a site on Boston Road.

Fordham is my best (but probably not accurate) guess. These old two-letter telephone exchanges are fun to find in hidden pockets of New York City.

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46 Responses to “What did the FA phone exchange stand for?”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    Could the ‘FA’ telephone exchange stand for: FAr Rockaway, Queens? Could there have been a branch of this company
    located in this area of NYC?

    • anne nonymous Says:

      The letters always represented the first two letters of the exchange, and as far as I can tell, they never related to anything in the neighborhood. I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn and our exchange was CL, for Cloverdale.

  2. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    …or perhaps this mysterious “FA” represents: FArmingdale.
    Of course the most alluring prefix was ‘BUTTERFIELD’ as in the title ‘BUTTERFIELD 8’ (which was a completely made-up feature by the author of the story.) This was the telephone number for Elizabeth Taylor – who received an Academy Award for that come-hither cinema number!
    (Hot Cha Cha!!!)

  3. Steve Kaufman Says:

    FA was for FAIRBANKS.

  4. sandra wapner Says:

    i’m guessing farragut

  5. Benjamin Feldman Says:

    FA was Fairbanks: see http://forgotten-ny.com/2008/02/running-the-numbers-part-2-more-nyc-telephone-exchanges/

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Fairbanks, of course! I should have known Forgotten NY would have that one.

  7. Robert Says:

    I could swear I left a message about this last night, did that come in?

  8. pqfnb2 Says:

    According to the lists, it was FAculty, FAirfax, or FAirview.

  9. Josh Says:

    FArragut, FAculty, FAirbanks, FAr Rockaway from The Telephone Exchange Name Project – http://ourwebhome.com/TENP/TENproject.html

  10. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    Ephemeral — You have created ‘a monster’ with the ‘FA’ telephone exchange — Hahahahaaaaa!

    The most famed NYC telephone number with a musical connection is the hit tune by The GLENN MILLER Band / Orchestra. The song’s title: “PEnnsylvania 6 – 5000.” The most famous recording includes the song’s musicians chanting the telephone number at the end of each stanza.

    The telephone number –legend has it — is the longest continuiously-in-use number by a New York City business. It is listed as belonging to the famed ‘Hotel Pennsylvania.’ The lodging is located in the vicinity of Penn Station. (The actual number is 736-5000.) The telephone company also chose “PE” to represent PEnnsylvania — associated with the station / not the state.

    Want to hear the song? Here are a pair of links below —

    GLENN MILLER’S Orchestration / music only


    THE ANDREWS SISTERS / with lyrics

    CAUTION — Listen to either of these recordings and you will be humming the song forrrrrrrrrrrr hours!

  11. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you Audrey! And don’t forget the other famous old NYC phone exchange from Sorry, Wrong Number: MUrray Hill 4-0098

    • Zoé Says:

      I was trying to remember that Ephemeral – thanks! Did you look that up; or was that off the top of your head? Lol… Impressive…

      And didn’t the Honeymooners have one? Did they live in Brooklyn? Did they even have a phone? Or did they have to borrow the more consumer oriented Ed & Trixie’s? My aging mind is forgetting all the really important stuff…

      • trilby1895 Says:

        Did the Honeymooners live in Canarsie? Seems familiar…

      • Zoé Says:

        Well I could stand it no longer – hence looked it up.

        Apparently Ralph & Alice Kramden (& Ed & Trixie etc.) lived at 328 Chauncey Street in Bushwick. (That’s in Brooklyn for you sane people who live in the rest of the world).

        But – wait for it – apparently the writers thought that address was in Bensonhurst. Even though it is a real address that is in Bushwick. So depending on one’s perspective they live in Bensonhurst *or* Bushwick.

        When Alice got a phone – angering Ralph a lot w/ that – the ‘exchange number’ (lol) was BEnsonhurst 0-7741

        And Trilby – it was Alice’s mom who lived in Canarsie. Lol.

        I sourced all of that from a funny thread on city-data. Here’s a sample of a post from someone w/ the screenname BugsyPal: “The Kramden’s apartment looks like something barely above what you’d see in a Jacob Riis (photo)”… Lol! Then everyone goes on to describe their NYC apartments that looked like the Kramden’s – only w/ tubs in kitchens & water closets in common hallways. I have said that here on Ephemeral’s blog re. my East First St. apartment (only I had a separate bath & kitchen). I also said it was like the apartment in the late 70s film ‘Eraserhead’.

        Here’s that link from the brilliant New Yorkers & Brookynites who knew the address & phone number… I mean ‘exchange’ number… lol… of the Kramdens:


    • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

      As an ‘Old Broadcaster’ I must add, the greatest production of the play ‘SORRY, WRONG NUMBER’ was by the great actress, Agnes Morehead. Her radio show recording of the script is astounding. It was heralded as so outstanding, a special tape of her presentation was put into the Library of Congress’s archives. Barbara Stanwyck ‘stole’ the movie role but the most memorable talent portraying t’he ill wife who hears a murder plot over the telephone’ is the magnificent AGNES MOREHEAD.

      • trilby1895 Says:

        Oh! Those old radio broadcasts! I’d give a lot to be able to listen to what I did as a child, including “The Shadow”, “Suspense”, “Inner Sanctum”, “Nick Carter, Private Detective”, etc. etc. On a local A.M. radio station (don’t recall call numbers but they advertise as “The Answer”), on Saturday nights at about 11:00 p.m. there is a show called “Hollywood 360” which plays many of the old radio shows….talk about tripping down Memory Lane…..

      • Zoé Says:

        The ‘Suspense’ show is linked here in my response to Ephemeral – Trilby. They’re at archive.org

      • trilby1895 Says:

        Yes, and thank you for the link, Zoe. So, do you listen to “Hollywood360”, as well? I thought I was the only fan from around here (don’t forget – you used to live on or near 4th Ave. and 86th St. in Brooklyn and I’d observed that we must have passed each, probably on the way to or from Century 21 back then.

      • Zoé Says:

        I never heard of ‘Hollywood 360’ before now Trilby. The link I gave here (one of them) was to ‘Studio360’. A podcast & radio show about all & sundry in the arts (mostly) hosted by a writer.

        The short segment I linked to is an interview w/ the daughter of the woman who wrote ‘Sorry Wrong Number’.

      • trilby1895 Says:

        Oh, well, “Studio 360” and what I listen to, “Hollywood 360” sound so similar that I’ll bet one is the off-shoot of the other. “Hollywood…” is on Saturday nights…I tune in at midnight and it continues until 3:00 a.m. featuring, last week, “Phil Harris and Alice Faye” show from 1950, “The Whistler” from, I think 1946, and the like. I think they’re podcast, as well. I fondly remember listening to those radio shows as a child.

      • Zoé Says:

        I searched ‘Hollywood 360’ after you mentioned it here Trilby. It looks really interesting. Thanks for that – I look forward to listening to it.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I will never forget it! My dad grew up listening to the radio and he found a cassette version of the Agnes Morehead recording and played it for us kids. It was terrifying…I can still hear the phone operator saying the number and the train and the screams!

      • Zoé Says:

        Here’s the Studio360 interview w/ the daughter of the woman who wrote it & also an expert on the radio play – Ephemeral & everyone. (Also it’s at archive.org … The show was called ‘Suspense’. So search ‘Radio / Suspense / Sorry Wrong Number / Agnes Moorehead’. But watch out those old radio plays are addictive!).

        This is fascinating. I’m really glad we’ve stopped using the word ‘invalid’ (as in not valid). Her daughter says here that her mom based it on real people she didn’t like!


      • Zoé Says:

        Here’s a link to the original Agnes Moorehead Suspense/Sorry Wrong Number 1943 radio play at archive.org


      • trilby1895 Says:

        Hooray and thanks, Zoe!!! I know what I’m going to be listening to in a few minutes….Without reading your comment about “Hollywood360”, I just referred to it….should have known you’d be on top of that greatness! Thanks again!

      • trilby1895 Says:

        Ephemeral, I’ll bet your dad and I were listening to the same programs at the same time back in the 1950s. I miss that world so much.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks Zoe! I have to be careful where I listen to this because it’s going to terrify me all over again.

  12. Herve J Boissonnault Says:

    Fairbanks old telephone exchange.

  13. tom0153 Says:

    FAculty is the one I most often saw or heard. It would be interesitng to find out where that came from since I don’t recall it as a neighborhood.

  14. Tom Vasti Says:

    FAirbanks was a Bronx exchange ..

  15. jshdoff Says:

    Our old phone numbers were PErshing 1-5230, and for the photography business they ran out of the house, the wall phone in the kitchen (with a cord long enough to reach the stove) was PYramid 6-7996.

  16. Bob Says:

    The “Bronx telephone directory, Winter 1939-40” lists this exchange as “FAirbanks 4” on page 8. See also various listings in the body of the directory.


  17. G Says:

    In the Village growing up OR stood for Oregon. We moved to the Upper Westside and had TR which stood for Trafalgar. Nice memory, thanks.

  18. Charles Says:

    In that part of the Bronx – where I lived in the 1960s when those letters were still used – FA = Fairbanks. I recall my old phone number, which we learned to recite Fairbanks 4-etc etc.

  19. David H Lippman Says:

    I was “ALgonquin” growing up in Greenwich Village.

  20. Mike Giuseffi Says:

    The exchange was FAirbanks The Bronx was area code 212 back when alpha exchanges existed. I know because my Aunt Connie’s phone number 9who lived on Gunther Ave near White Plains Road in the Bronx at that time) was (212) FA4-7107.

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

    […] undergone upgrades over the years. But you wouldn’t know it from the sign, with its wonderful two-letter prefix on the management office’s phone […]

  22. edward wiessner Says:


  23. Gene Says:

    FA stands for FAirbanks

  24. Richard Caruso Says:

    FÃ I believe was Fort Apache

    • Kiwiwriter Says:

      Gun Hill Road got its name from the American Revolution. It was a artillery defense line.

      Featherbed Lane got its name from something related…supposedly the local housewives dumped the contents of their featherbeds on the road to reduce the noise of retreating Continental troops.

  25. anne nonymous Says:

    The telephone exchanges always consisted of the first two letters of the word. For instance, I lived in Brooklyn and my exchange was CL, which stood for Cloverdale.

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