The Telephone Exchange Building; A 100 Years In The Making

A new exhibition at AMEICO celebrating the centennial of the Southern New England Telephone Exchange Building of New Milford, CT opened on June 30th. The exhibition of rare telephones were generously donated by local collectors: Mark Berghold, George Champion, and Nancy A. Davis; the earliest examples of which would have been found in households when 29 Church Street was constructed. Providing an overview of the growing importance of the telephone in New Milford one hundred years ago, it will be on view until October 31, 2018.

Pictured: three of the original telephone operators  (L-R) Elizabeth Peyron, Victoria Noble and Jeanne Hulton who joined the Southern New England Telephone Company (SNET) and worked at this location between 1946-1952. We were delighted to interview these three ladies and hear about the working conditions, routines, regulations and camaraderie of a telephone operator’s position starting just two years after the end of World War II.

Jeanne Hulton described working for SNET was like “being a part of a family, we organized outings and held wedding and baby showers for each other. We covered each other’s shifts when necessary.” Victoria described the layout of the building. There was a lounge, a locker room and a bathroom. Children of employees were allowed to visit their working mothers and relax in the, already mentioned, rooms.

Elizabeth recalled how the operators could sign up for any of the 4 hour shifts around the clock and no one would think twice about walking a few blocks home, as late as 11 pm.

~The interview can be watched in its entirety as part of the exhibition~

The plans for the $35,000 fire-proofed concrete building on Church Street was completed in April 1917. The builders were from the Dowling & Bottomley Co of Bridgeport, CT. The New Milford Times dated April 1917 stated, “The building will be up to date in every way. The front will be constructed of Tapestry brick with artificial stone trimmings. The layout of the basement includes the cable vault, boiler room, fuel storage space and a small toilet. On the second floor: the operating room, operators’ locker and lunch room, girls’ retiring room and girls’ toilet.”

See B&W photo, (L-R) Mabel Adams, Pearl Brown, and Mrs. George Heinell – telephone operators, at the 29 Church Street SNET Exchange Building, circa 1917

 

 

AMEICO is a New Milford based company which specializes in importing and distributing modern and contemporary industrial design. Founded by Peter Kahane (pictured) in 1995, he chose to purchase and restore 29 Church Street in 2012 to house its operations and display a variety of products for the public.

AMEICO, 29 Church Street, New Milford, CT

Open M-F 9am-5pm; Sat: 11am-4pm

Contact Daniel Basiletti for images or more details about this exhibition & stop by in person to see our local history!