Posts Tagged ‘old phone exchanges’

Old phone exchanges spotted around the city

August 29, 2010

It’s a little worrisome that so many elevator alarm bells list a phone number with a pre-1960s exchange. Will someone really answer the call?

Exeter was a Long Island City exchange—from a warehouse building in Chelsea.

I couldn’t find any listing for Super B Drug, but luckily this colorful sign survives on Canal Street near Broadway. The CA exchange—CAnal, of course.

Old signs with old phone exchanges

July 1, 2010

I don’t know how long B. & H. Electric has been in Prospect Heights, but the NE phone exchange came into use in 1930, when the New York Telephone Company greatly expanded its dialing system.

SA also came into existence in 1930; it covered West Harlem. This rusty relic, advertising another electric company, is still hanging on outside an apartment building in the West 150s.

SA stood for Sacramento. But why Sacramento? 

For those perplexed by these and other mysteries of old letter phone prefixes, here’s an exhaustive website that can shed a little light.

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!

Hiding in plain sight old phone exchanges

April 5, 2010

It’s a little unnerving that the who-to-call signs for elevator maintenance issues in many buildings are so old, their phone number starts with a two-letter exchange officially dropped in the 1960s. 

Like this one, with SU for Susquehanna. I wonder why that name was assigned to the Upper West Side?

Hopefully they’ve done more recent elevator inspections. . . .

This real estate company ad in midtown helpfully provides the full name of the exchange, ORegon.

If you look really hard, you can make out the exchange on this barely hanging on commercial real estate ad near Canal Street.

JU for Judson, the name of the 19th century church still standing on Washington Square South.

Almost-forgotten Manhattan phone exchanges

January 5, 2010

Tucked among the battered old store signs in Chinatown are a few faded but still readable gems like this one. It sports the old-school phone exchange WO—for nearby Worth Street:

An Ephemeral reader sent in this 1980s business card, featuring the old BR exchange for Bryant Park:

Modern Leather Goods has been in business since 1939, but a quick look at their website shows that they have a new phone number.

More old-school phone exchanges

November 10, 2009

This old-timey sign belongs to a store on Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill. the UL exchange stood for Ulster.

But what was Ulster? It’s a mystery. A New York Times article from February 1947 announced that 4,200 households in Flatbush “who have wanted telephone installations since the beginning of the war” would be getting UL numbers.


Strangely, Joe’s Superette, on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, also has a UL number. That’s a bit of a hike from Myrtle Avenue.


Meanwhile, on a residential building in Harlem, the “In Case of Emergency” number above still stands next to an elevator shaft. LE for Lenox Avenue.

Old signs that feature old phone exchanges

July 20, 2009

Sutton Clock Shop, on Lexington and 61st Street, has been around for more than 60 years. Why install a more modern sign that features the numerical phone number when this old-school sign is so charming?

PL stood for Plaza, perhaps the Plaza Hotel on 59th and Fifth.


This hand-painted Michael Rizzo & Son sign points to a basement office on a brownstone on West 12th Street in the West Village. Wonder how they ended up with an OR exchange—for Orchard Street?


Zucca’s Italian Garden: call Bryant 5511

May 4, 2009

Zucca’s appears to have been a popular Rockefeller Center–area restaurant in the 1930 and 1940s, at least popular enough to have its own postcard and very earnest slogan: “the quality of our food is always higher than the price.” 


The Bryant 5511 (or 10122) on the back of the postcard phone number predates the two-letter, 5 digit exchanges that existed until the 1960s, when letters were phased out of phone numbers.


Zucca’s was owned by Louis Zucca, whose daughter Rita Louisa Zucca renounced her U.S. citizenship during World War II and became known as an “Axis Sally.” She was convicted of broadcasting Nazi radio propaganda to American troops stationed in Europe.

Tried by an Italian military tribunal, she was sentenced to four years in prison, according to a 1945 New York Times article.

Old phone exchange: Digby 4-8260

February 7, 2009

This 1950s-era Traveller’s Luggage discount card fell out of a recently purchased used book. The Digby exchange covered lower Broadway down by Bowling Green, where Traveller’s headquarters were.









So why was the local phone exchange named Digby? It comes from Digby’s Bar, which used to be located at One Broadway.

A couple of Brooklyn phone exchanges

July 6, 2008

HY is for Hyancinth, in Williamsburg, but it’s unclear where that name came from.

The very faded NE in this moving-shipping-storage ad on Atlantic Avenue and Bedford stands for Nevins. Too bad there isn’t a city agency to help preserve the faint numerals.