Once upon a time, telephone customers were assigned alphanumeric telephone numbers. For example, the numbers were such as FOundation 8-3556 (now 368-2556), MOnument 2-2491 (now 662-2491) or NEvins 8-3886 (now 638-3886). The letters and first digit designated a certain geographic area and were referred to as exchanges. Numbers beginning with FOundation were in the vicinity of Lenox Avenue and 135th Street in Manhattan. A large segment of today’s population have no idea of the concept of alphanumeric telephone numbers. However, FNY’s busy camera has once again captured traces of the phone company’s past and brought them to light… Running The Numbers Part One
ABOVE: Myrtle Avenue near Classon; UL= ULster.
BELOW: now-removed; Cortelyou Road and East 7th Street, GE= GEdney.
LEFT: Avenue S near East 36th Street, Marine Park. DE = DEwey.
RIGHT: Schenectady Avenue near Eastern Parkway, Crown Heights.
ABOVE: White Plains Road and East 240th Street, Wakefield, Bronx. FA=FAirbanks.
BELOW: yet another DEwey exchange at 39th Street near 5th Avenue on Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
ABOVE: Goats head soup! Nostrand Avenue near Flatbush Avenue near Brooklyn College. Another GEdney exchange.
BELOW: West 166th near Nelson Avenue, Highbridge Heights, Bronx. ME= MElrose.
ABOVE: Another Wakefield FAirbanks sign at White Plains Road and East 240th Street.
BELOW: Flatlands Avenue near Remsen Avenue in Canarsie, Brooklyn. NI = NIghtingale.
We’ve seen these locales before, Wakefield, Bronx, and Canarsie, Brooklyn.
West Houston Street near 6th Avenue, Greenwich Village. SP for SPring. RIGHT: Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, Ozone Park, Queens. This is an aged ad because of the three-letter exchange, VIR for VIRginia.
ForgottenFan Steven Peculic: The letter codes used to be three characters, not two. My grandparents had a phone with an RAV-#### number. That stood for RAVenswood. That means that the RAV area can only accomodate 9999 phones. That had to be expanded. In the early fifties they made the letter exchanges two characters and that phone defaulted to RA8. I remember people talking that the ‘real’ Woodside phones all began with RA8 and other people with, say, RA6 exchanges, were Johnny-come-latelys. BTW, that RAV phone was in Woodside on 31st Ave between 55 and 56 Street. My living great aunt has a phone that begins with 278, which stands for AST. She had that phone since 1949. It is located on 43 street between Broadway and 34 ave. The same thing happened with Astoria. All phones were AST (278). Then they became AS# (27#). That happened in the late fifties. Then phone numbers were totally randomized (early eighties).
ABOVE: McDonald Avenue north of Cortelyou Road, Kensington, Brooklyn. GE once again for GEdney. BELOW: East New York Avenue near New York Avenue, Crown Heights — yes, the two meet. PR = PResident.
ABOVE: Liberty Avenue near Grant Avenue, Cypress Hills. AP stood for APplegate.
BELOW: Westchester Avenue near St. Lawrence Avenue, positioned to be seen form the Parkchester el. Tough to make it out but I think it’s DA for DAyton.
ABOVE: EVergreen at Franklin Street near Quay Street in Greenpoint.
BELOW: 5th Avenue near 79th Street, Bay Ridge, SH for SHore Road.
ABOVE: Foster Avenue near East 16th Street, Flatbush; CL for CLoverdale.
BELOW: Guy R. Brewer Boulevard near 115th Avenue, South Jamaica. AX = AXtel.
ABOVE: yet another ULster exchange. Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. BELOW: KIngston Avenue near Union Street, Crown Heights. SL for SLocum, likely the Civil War general.
ABOVE: McDonald Avenue near Cortelyou Road, Kensington, Brooklyn; ULster once again.
BELOW: 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Boulevard) near West 113th Street, Harlem; SA for Sacramento. Anyone’s guess why there was a SAcramento exchange on the east coast.
ABOVE: Flushing Avenue near Clermont Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. MA for Main. RIGHT: 12th Avenue near 39th Street, Borough Park, Brooklyn. UL again, for ULster.
BELOW: 4th Avenue near 18th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn; ST for STerling. RIGHT: Graham Avenue near Skillman, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. ST stood for STagg.
ABOVE: 6th Avenue and 62nd Street, Sunset Park, Brooklyn. HY for HYacinth.
BELOW: FNY correspondent Gary Fonville forgot where he got this shot — with a NEvins exchange, I’d imagine it’s downtown Brooklyn.Thanks Gary for photography and legwork on this page. More exchanges coming along at a later date.