"Number Please": Portland and the Architecture of the Telephone Exchange

03/14/2020 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM PT




  • $12.00  -  AHC Member Price
  • $20.00  -  General Public Price



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.


This lecture program is held at the Architectural Heritage Center - 701 SE Grand Avenue


Parking is on-street (free on Saturdays) or in the parking lot on the west side of Grand Avenue between SE Yamhill and Belmont Streets - just to the north of the Urbanite. Thank you to Bolliger and Sons Insurance for sharing their lot with us for our evening and Saturday education programs.

Image: Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph Building, SE 6th & Ankeny, (c.1901). Courtesy of Norm Gholston.

NeonCRM by Neon One