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Thread: Telephone Exchange Names in NYC

  1. #1
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Default Telephone Exchange Names in NYC

    Does anyone know the specific Exchange Names that were used in NYC before they were dropped in favor of numbered prefixes?

    Here is a LINK to the list of officially recommended Exchange Names from Ma Bell (from "Notes on Nationwide Dialing, 1955").

    Where I grew up the numerical prefix "935" was previously referred to in telephone lingo as "Yellowstone".

    One of the more famous NYC Exchange Names was coined by John O'Hara in the title of his 1935 novel "BUtterfield 8" -- a name that doesn't appear on the official list!

    I'm curious if anyone knows what specific Exchange Names were linked to prefixes "431" and "925" in NYC.

    Some possibilities (per the list):
    431:
    GEneral
    GEneva
    HEmlock
    HEmpstead
    IDlewood


    925:
    WAbash
    WAlker
    WAlnut
    WArwick
    WAverly



  2. #2
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    KNickerbocker
    NIghtingale
    PLaza
    ALgonquin
    YUkon
    KLondike
    GRamercy
    CAnal
    UNiversity
    DEfender
    EXeter
    STillwell

    Lucy and Ricky Ricardo's number was MUrray Hill 7, I think.

    And of course, the Hotel Pennsylvania: PEnnsylvania 6-5000.

  3. #3

    Wink

    The Ricardos phone number seemed to change a lot. First it was, Murray Hill 5-9975, then it became Circle 7-2099, and then again to Murray Hill 5-9099. The reason for this was to ensure that fans would not call the number and actually get a hold of someone. (I think)

    This is totally off-top ( I know )
    Maybe someone else has stated this, but the Ricardos' address was 623 E. 68th Street. However, E. 68th Street in Manhattan only goes up to 600 - which means that the Ricardos' building was in the middle of the East River. I'm a BIG I Love Lucy Fanatic!
    Last edited by Dagrecco82; April 10th, 2006 at 04:30 PM.

  4. #4
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Default

    Aha -- Thanks for the new info ...

    So a 219 prefix could be "CAnal" ...

    Some more INFO :
    People eventually knew exchange names belonged to certain parts of the city and made associations and assumptions based on your telephone number ... Your telephone number gave a clue. All number dialing wiped out all these names and the memories that went them, much angst ensued, and countless editorials mourned their loss. Witness this lament from New York City:
    "You could learn about a fella by knowing his exchange. A MOnument fella was up near 100th Street and West End Avenue. You could picture him coming downtown on the IRT, strolling first to 96th and Broadway for the newspapers, passing the Riviera and Riverside movie theaters (both gone). The ATwater girl was an East Side girl, a taxi-hailing girl, on her way to her job at Benton and Bowles. A CIrcle fella was a midtown fella, entering his CIrcle-7 Carnegie-area office with a sandwich from the Stage Deli. And what about a SPring-7 girl, twirling the ends of her long brown hair as she lay on her bed talking to you on te phone? A Greenwich Village girl. A 777 girl is nothing. She is invisible. She is without irony, seldom listens to music."

    Jonathan Schwartz, New York Magazine, December 21 -- 28, 1987, as reproduced in Once Upon a Telephone: An Illustrated Social History, (1994) Stern and Gwathmey, New York. Harcourt Brace and Company. p.47
    As I mentioned at the top of this page, in 1958 The Bell System began phasing out exchange name dialing or letter prefixes. As Stern and Gwathmey put it, "the WAlnuts, LOcusts, SPruces and MAgnolias were just so much dead wood." As of 1977, nearly two decades later, only 74% of Bell System lines were ANC or all number calling, it would take years more to complete the job, removing a system which was never needed in the first place.

  5. #5

    Default from the "Phone Trips" website

    Sifting through my good friend Evan Doorbell's massive collection of '70s era telephone recordings (a very entertaining bit of nostalgia for many, I'm sure--how many here remember the noisy, gritty sound of the pre-digital Bell System phone network?), some of NYC's old prefixes include:

    BEachview
    GEdney (Brooklyn)
    SHore Road
    TRafalgar
    ULster
    MUrray
    NEptune (Queens)

    Check'm out: http://www.wideweb.com/phonetrips You'll need RealPlayer to listen to these recordings.

    cheers,

    Billy S.

  6. #6
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Thanks, moogyboy ...

    ...some of NYC's old prefixes include:
    BEachview 23
    GEdney (Brooklyn) 43
    SHore Road 74
    TRafalgar 87
    ULster 85
    MUrray 68
    NEptune (Queens) 63

  7. #7

    Default

    If any of you are ever near Yankee Stadium, you have to check out the sign for the liquor store on 161st, between River and Gerard Avenues. It still boasts an ME-XXXX phone number after all this time.

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1
    Thanks, moogyboy ...






    ...some of NYC's old prefixes include:
    BEachview 23
    GEdney (Brooklyn) 43
    SHore Road 74
    TRafalgar 87
    ULster 85
    MUrray 68
    NEptune (Queens) 63




    No problemo...to be a little more specific, according to the website NE4/634 was/is in Belle Harbor, Queens, and GE9/439, or at least the actual phone company building serving that prefix, was somewhere in the upper 70's in Brooklyn...77th St., I think.

    cheers

    Billy S.

  9. #9
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    There was a CHelsea exchange, too.

  10. #10

    Default (914) exchanges

    I grew up in 914 area code.

    I lived in SCarsdale 3. Others in my area were GReenleaf 2 (Scarsdale), WHite Plains 6, 8 and 9, YOnkers 5, 6, 8 and 9, NEw Rochelle 3 and 6, OWens 8 (Mamaroneck), MOunt Vernon 4 and 8, MOunt Kisco 6, CEntral 8 (Chappaqua).

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by stache View Post
    There was a CHelsea exchange, too.
    Most Greenwich Village phones still had the exchange printed on the dial label as late as the 70s. I remember seeing CH 3-6848.

    As to the og commenter's notion that John O'Hara 'coined' a fictitious exchange with Butterfield 8, that was and is a genuine exchange common on the Upper East Side. There are probably lots of old desk phones and letterheads around with BU 8 on them.

  12. #12

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    You can identify the oldest exchanges by the first 3 letters in the exchange name. That was the naming system used by NY Telephone in the 1920s.

    It was the BUTterfield. exchange. The "T" equates to an 8. There was no BU-4 or BU-5, just BU-8

    Same thing for the Glen Miller song, "Pennsylvania 6-5000." The 6 is the N in the PENnsylvania exchange.

    Other oldies:

    254 - ALGonquin
    472 - GRAmercy
    687 - MURay Hill
    236 - BENsonhurst
    644 - NIGhtingale.

    If you gave someone your telephone number, you said, "Butterfield 1234."

    As telephone service exploded, they quickly ran out of exchanges. So by the 1930s, there was a GRamercy-5.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    You can identify the oldest exchanges by the first 3 letters in the exchange name. That was the naming system used by NY Telephone in the 1920s.

    It was the BUTterfield. exchange. The "T" equates to an 8. There was no BU-4 or BU-5, just BU-8

    Same thing for the Glen Miller song, "Pennsylvania 6-5000." The 6 is the N in the PENnsylvania exchange.

    Other oldies:

    254 - ALGonquin
    472 - GRAmercy
    687 - MURay Hill
    236 - BENsonhurst
    644 - NIGhtingale.

    If you gave someone your telephone number, you said, "Butterfield 1234."

    As telephone service exploded, they quickly ran out of exchanges. So by the 1930s, there was a GRamercy-5.
    Boston used three-letters for a lot longer. KENmore became KEnmore 6-. COPley became COpley 7. But they never branched out the exchanges, as they did in NY with MURray Hill and GRAmercy.

  14. #14

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    ^
    New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago were the first US cities to use what was called 3L-4N format. It's true that many places retained the 3 letter format for a long time. That depended on the need for more switches; there are 10,000 possible numbers of 4 digits.

    Sometimes in old movies, it seems like telephone numbers were only 6 digits, like when Lou Costello was trying to reach Alexander 4444



    List of New York Telephone exchanges from 1920 to 1930.

    List of New york Telephone exchanges after 1930.

  15. #15

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    With exchange names people who didn't spell well often received wrong numbers. If they thought YUkon 8 on Staten Island was UK, they would reach ULster 8 in downtown Brooklyn. SK dialed for SChuyler 4 on the Upper West Side, sent their call to PLaza 4 on the East Side.

    Errors also occurred with names of states. If VIrginia 3 in Queens were dialed as VA, the call went to TAlmadge in the Bronx. PEnnsylvania 6 (as PA) reached RAvenswood in Long Island City.

    Two-name exchanges created problems for some. Wrong numbers were sure to happen if someone thought MUrray Hill was MH, BOwling Green, BG and SAint George, SG.

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