“Number Please”: Portland and the Architecture of the Telephone Exchange
FREE for AHC Members! (must sign into your AHC member account when registering)
During the first several decades in the history of telecommunications, the constantly evolving technology created a need for telephone operators to connect callers and large buildings to house both workers and equipment. Things changed, however, by the by the mid-20th century as rotary dial equipment replaced the friendly voices of the telephone operators. The buildings that had once housed hundreds of workers in Portland were seen as obsolete. Perhaps surprisingly, quite a few of the Portland area telephone exchange buildings from the early 20th century still exist. The majority are clustered in downtown or are located on the east side. These survivors from the era of old telephone technology have mostly been repurposed and often show little evidence of their original purpose.
This narrated presentation by architectural historian and AHC volunteer, Eric Wheeler, will provide a short overview of the early years of the telephone industry in Portland and feature ‘then and now’ images of the exchange buildings that for more than 50 years electronically connected commerce and community.
Image: Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph Building, SE 6th & Ankeny, (c.1901). Courtesy of Norm Gholston.