Posts Tagged ‘old New York phone exchanges’

A mystery phone exchange on an East Village sign

April 8, 2019

How long has Abetta Boiler & Welding Service been building and repairing the infrastructure of New York City?

At least since 1957, according to a listing in the Greater New York Industrial Directory.

And that makes sense, based on the old two-letter phone exchange that’s still on the company sign over a garage on East First Street in the East Village.

GR for Gramercy? Greenwich? It’s hard to know, as it’s been more than 50 years since the two-letter exchanges were phased out in favor of digits.

It’s getting harder to spot some of these old exchanges on signs and storefronts, but the Abetta sign stands as a reminder of what phone numbers used to look like in New York.

The artwork on the garage door is an appropriate ode to an old-school Manhattan business, too.

Renting a Greenwich Village apartment in 1917

July 22, 2013

Save for the pre-1930s telephone exchange (four digits!) and the old-school phrases like “to let,” this 1917 ad isn’t too far off from the kind that run today.


Doesn’t everyone who desires to live in Greenwich Village still want large rooms, fireplaces, balconies, as well as electricity and heat?

I only wish Pepe & Bro. listed prices!

The ad is from the NYPL Digital Gallery, and it originally ran in a publication called The Spectator.

Faded phone exchange signs on dingy tenements

March 18, 2013

Lots of old tenements have them—metal signs advertising the name of the electrician or roofer or plumber who helped maintain the building.


These two were spotted in low-income Bronx neighborhoods. The sign above comes from a tenement near the Fordham Road D train stop. The ME is for the Melrose neighborhood in the South Bronx.


WY for Wyandotte on this sign, found near Third Avenue in Melrose. It’s also a Bronx exchange—but why Wyandotte, which connotes the Native American tribe Wyandot, who live in Canada?

The only reference I could find comes from a 1975 New York Times article bemoaning the disappearance of the more poetic and descriptive phone exchange names:

“ALgonquin was nice, too, suggesting Indians, as did LAckawanna and WYandotte,” writes John Corry. “WYandotte seemed to be used almost exclusively by the Irish who lived around Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Those Irish are vanishing; so is WYandotte.”

Vintage cards for defunct Manhattan businesses

November 15, 2011

Not only is Ackerly & Sandiford gone (mmm, smelts!) but so is the Fulton Fish Market, relocated to Hunts Point in the Bronx after opening on South Street in 1822.

The logo looks turn of the century, but the five-digit phone number means the card can’t date back any earlier than 1930, according to this historic phone exchange website.

Furniture dealer P. Bechstein’s business could predate telephones, as there is no number on the card.

Bowery and East Fifth Street is a little north of today’s restaurant equipment district. But this could be one of the first Bowery businesses to sell chairs, tables, and other items to the restaurant trade.

What remains of some defunct city businesses

June 13, 2011

For these three companies, the only remnants are paper receipts dating to the turn of the last century, all found amazingly preserved in a Clinton Hill brownstone.

They don’t tell us much, but they provide a clue or two as to what daily life was like and what services were available.

Like that if you needed an ambulance, you had this horse-drawn carriage service to rely on to get you to the hospital.

I have no idea what anyone would need pure oxygen gas and calcium lights for, but this DUMBO supplier says they’re “for all occasions.”

Imagine the uproar if a gun store tried to open on Broadway and Duane Street today? But in 1897, this one sold “every variety.”

Two more old Manhattan phone exchanges

June 8, 2011

This first one was spotted on a building off Lafayette Street near Bond Street.

Strangely, it has the EM for Empire that indicated a Brooklyn or Queens phone number.

I guess the alarm company was located in one of these boroughs (kind of scary if you were stuck in the elevator, having to wait for someone to come rescue you from across the East River).

The Little Wolf Cabinet shop, launched in 1956, is still located in the East 80s, one of the last of German Yorkville’s old-school businesses.

RE is for Rector or Regent.

More old signs with old phone exchanges

May 18, 2010

Raskin’s Fish Market, on Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights, looks like a remnant of another era, thanks to the old-timey sign and phone exchange.

That’s SL for Slocum.

But this kosher fish store, open since 1961, is no throwback—they even have their own Facebook page.

Abramson Brothers is a real-estate management company with properties across Manhattan.

This plaque is affixed to a handsome building at 333 West 52nd Street.

MU—for Murray Hill, of course!

Obscure Manhattan phone exchanges

June 9, 2009

This one was spotted in a building on Park Place where some city agencies have offices. SW might stand for Swinburne—but why? The only Swinburne reference I’m aware of is Swinburne Island in New York Harbor.


On East First Street, a reminder of the East Village’s working class past, and the neighborhood’s proximity to GRamercy Park:


Faded signs on the Lower East Side

March 21, 2009

T & J Auto Repairs is on Delancey Street in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.


 I love that they use the old OR phone exchange (for Orchard). OR remains in a handful of other old signs and faded ads up to East 14th Street.

The battered and weathered ad below is for two separate businesses. P. Zaccaro Real Estate was founded by Geraldine Ferraro’s father-in-law. J. Eis & Son sells (sold?) air conditioners.

And at the very bottom, there’s the Orchard exchange again.


Old phone exchange signs cannot hide

December 17, 2008

Two-letter telephone exchanges offer a glimpse into pre-1960s Gotham, and it’s always a treat to uncover new ones.

The Regent Sign Company prefix was spotted on a storefront on West Eighth Street currently undergoing renovation. AL?









If you needed to enter this old loft building in SoHo back in the day, you’d call WO 6-1048. I wonder if anyone still answers the phone at the P & G Elevator Company.