Tag: Telephone Exchanges

  • Art Deco Telephone Exchange in Carnegie

    Telephone exchange in Carnegie

    Press C. Dowler was almost certainly the architect of this classic Art Deco telephone exchange, since he designed most of the buildings for Bell Telephone in our area during the Art Deco era.

    The blankness of the first floor is probably original. As much of the switching equipment as possible was on the ground floor, because copper was expensive, and anything that shortened the distance that had to be cabled saved a lot of money.


    The polychrome frieze is an unexpected flash of color on what is otherwise a monochrome building that makes its decorative statements with cleverly patterned brick, a few stone accents, and small terra-cotta ornaments.

    Entrance decoration
    Terra cotta
    Street names

    It used to be usual for corner buildings to carry the names of the streets in lieu of street signs. It was already old-fashioned when this building went up, but who could resist those elegant Art Deco letters?

  • Telephone Exchange, Squirrel Hill

    Telephone exchange in Squirrel Hill

    A particularly grand example of the Renaissance-palace school of telephone exchanges. Father Pitt believes that all our Renaissance-palace telephone exchanges were probably done by the same architect, and some day he hopes to find out who it was.

    Lunette and inscription
    Corner view of the telephone exchange
  • Bell Telephone Exchange, Sharpsburg

    Bell Telephone exchange in Sharpsburg

    As Father Pitt has remarked before, telephone exchanges were designed to be ornaments to their neighborhoods, and the Renaissance-palace style was one of the most popular forms for them. This one is on Main Street in Sharpsburg, and it preserves its Renaissance dignity under the ownership of the successor to the Bell System.

    Bell System
    Corner view

    This blank wall on the western end of the building shows two different colors of bricks, suggesting that the building was originally one storey, with the second storey added later. That would explain the cornice at the first-floor level.


  • Bell Telephone Exchange, Allentown

    Bell Telephone exchange, Allentown, Pittsburgh

    A particularly fine Art Deco design. Neighborhood telephone exchanges were put up all over the city, and the telephone company, which had all the money in the world, always made them ornaments to their neighborhoods. This one still belongs to the successor of the Bell Telephone Company.

    Addendum: The architect was almost certainly Press C. Dowler. According to the Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Form for the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania Western Headquarters Building, “Between 1935 and 1955, Press C. Dowler designed in excess of 60 buildings for Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh region.”

    Decorative relief
    Another relief
  • Bell Telephone Building, Oakland

    Bell Telephone Building, Neville Avenue

    When this dignified Renaissance palace on Neville Avenue was built, there were telephone exchanges like this all over the city, each one stuffed with operators directing calls from here to there. They were built to be ornaments to their neighborhoods rather than mere excrescences of technology. These days we dial numbers directly, but this building still belongs to the successor of the Bell Telephone Company.