Posts Tagged ‘old phone booths’

The last sidewalk phone booths in New York City

July 29, 2021

Once upon a time, public phone booths were ubiquitous on the sidewalks of New York City. “Outdoor phone booths made their first entrance in the early 1900s, and became commonplace in the 1950s when glass and aluminum replaced difficult-to-maintain wood as the building material of choice,” explained Time magazine in 2016.

But the invention of the cell phone sealed the fate of the phone booth, with its folding door and often a small seat as well, where you could drop your shopping bags while you fished around your pocket or purse for coins to make a call. (Or used a calling card, or called collect.)

Now, New York City has only four outside public phone booths. Interestingly, they’re all on the Upper West Side on quiet stretches of West End Avenue.

The first one is at 66th Street (top photo), then 91st Street (second photo), 100th Street, and 101st Street (bottom).

If these icons of another New York appear to be in surprisingly good shape, that’s because they aren’t the original phone booths that existed on each corner. Each is a relatively recent replacement of an older booth that was battered or marked by graffiti, according to a 2016 New York Times article.

Though these phone booths lack doors, they’re reminiscent of the iconic phone booths that were utilitarian and functional but also had an air of romance, mystery, even danger.

New York phone booths often played pivotal roles in movies—remember in Rosemary’s Baby, when a very pregnant Rosemary Woodhouse goes into the privacy of a phone booth to dial Dr. Hill so he could deliver her baby instead of her doctor and neighbors, all of them witches?

Residents of West End Avenue are charmed by their phone booths, so charmed that in 2010 one author even published a children’s book about one specific booth.

The book’s title is still fitting: The Lonely Phone Booth.

The wooden phone booths in a Chelsea bar

September 17, 2012

Old, dark neighborhood bars and pubs often harbor a back-room secret: vintage wooden phone booths, the kind that used to exist all over New York.

Now, of course, they’re an endangered species.

That’s mostly thanks to cell phones, but also the fact that few people seem to think it’s necessary to duck away somewhere to have a private conversation.

These two twin old-school booths (with working phones!) are at the end of the carved Mahogany bar at Peter McManus Cafe at Seventh Avenue and 19th Street, still packing in drinkers after 76 years.

More vintage phone booth sightings can be found here.