The information in this article comes to me courtesy of the Rogers Park
Historical Society here in Chicago. Their source of information comes from
notes prepared March 5, 1958 by R. L. Mahan, an employee of Illinois Bell,
for the occassion of the 75th anniversary of telephone service in Rogers
Park, the Chicago neighborhood in which I reside.
September 15, 1883: Rogers Park was served by a toll station from Chicago.
The charge was 25 cents for 5 minutes of connection. The name and address
given in the directory of the Chicago Telephone Company was simply, "Rogers
Park, public toll station # 1".
September 15, 1886: In the Chicago Telephone Company directory issued this
date, two toll stations are listed, with the second one being "Dr. C.H.
Burbank, drug store, toll station # 2".
July 15, 1889: The south edge of the present (1958) Rogers Park office (that
below Devon Avenue) was annexed to Chicago, as a part of the city then known
April 4, 1893: The territory east of Kedzie Avenue and between Howard Street
and Devon (most of the present  Rogers Park office) was annexed to
the city of Chicago. This included the villages of Rogers Park and West
December 1, 1895: The Chicago Telephone Company announced the establishment
of a telephone exchange in Rogers Park. The proposed rate for service was
$42 per year for local community service, with a toll fee for calls to
January 1, 1897: The wiring and installation of the exchange was complete,
and it opened for business this date. The switchboard was located in the
drug store at the corner of Clark Street and Lunt Avenue, and was operated
by the wife of the pharmacist and her family.
1903: At year end, stations in service throughout Rogers Park totaled 372,
versus 255 the year before.
February 1, 1905: The switchboard was moved to the building at the rear
of the drug store (actually 722 Lunt Street). Chicago Telepone Company
announced that effective that date, service would be provided 24 hours per
day, seven days per week. Prior, the board had been open during the day
and early evening hours, and closed on Sunday. The residents of the
community had a 'gentlemen's agreement' with the operator: Calls would not
be placed during overnight hours or on Sunday when she was off duty except
in cases of emergency. In a middle of the night emergency, a loud bell
connected to the switchboard rang when a phone went off hook and it would
awaken her, sleeping nearby.
September 1, 1909: The street number of the phone office changed to 1754
West Lunt, when all house numbers were changed to conform with the new
street numbering system in Chicago.
1909: The village of Birchwood (including the Germania community in the
far south end of Evanston) was served from Rogers Park on "Birchwood"
March 6, 1915: Rogers Park office cutover; many number changes were
involved. The "Birchwood" theoretical prefix was discontinued. The office
moved to its present ( and still, in 1989) location, 1622 West
April 24, 1915: Area north of Howard Street, east of the Elevated tracks
and north to the south boundary of Calvary Cemetery (neighborhood known
as "Little Germania") annexed to the city of Chicago, and served by the
new "Rogers Park" prefix.
March 13, 1920: Area along the lake front which had been served by the
Edgewater office (1007 stations) was transferred to the Rogers Park
office. The "Sheldrake" prefix was started to accomodate these phones.
Some of the residents in the area had "Rogers Park" numbers, and as
nearly as possible kept the same number, but with "Sheldrake" as the
new prefix. Records indicate that a John Townson, whose telephone number
was formerly "Rogers Park 6" was transferred to "Sheldrake 1".
1921-23: The Chicago Telephone Company was aquired by the rapidly growing
American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and over a two year period, all
facilities of Chicago Telephone were transferred to the control of the
newly formed corporation, "Illinois Bell Telephone Company". Throughout
its history until now (1958), Illinois Bell was never owned exclusively
by AT&T. Although AT&T owned and still owns about 95 percent of the stock
in the corporation, about 5 percent is owned by private investors, who
retained some stock rights from their prior ownership of Chicago Telephone.
April, 1925: "Briargate" opens as a third prefix in the area.
April, 1928: "Hollycourt" opened as a fourth prefix.
September, 1940: "Ambassador" opened as a theoretical prefix in the
September 18, 1948: Most of Chicago, including Rogers Park had been converted
to automatic dialing in lieu of manual calling. The Rogers Park neighborhood
exchanges converted to the two letter, five figure numbering system.
The third letter of the exchange name became the first digit of the five.
Old style numbers less than four digits took leading zeros as filler when
the dial conversion was complete, i.e. a number such as ROGers Park 6
July 25, 1949: "ROgers Park-1" opened as the sixth prefix in the area.
December 31, 1950: Stations in service on six prefixes in Rogers Park
totalled 53,055. Prefixes were "ROgers Park-1", "ROgers Park-4", "SHeldrake-3",
"BRiargate-4", "HOllycourt-5" and "AMbassador-2".
April 28, 1957: "BRoadway-4" opened as a theoretical prefix in "BRiargate-4",
which it will eventually replace.
At the bottom of Mr. Mahon's notes, dated in 1958, the following additional
notes had been written in:
February, 1961: All number calling prefix 338 was opened. Ironically, had
we still been going with exchange names, 338 would have been presented as
"DEvon-8", a logical choice, the main street in the area being named Devon.
September 16, 1962: Direct distance dialing for station to station calls
became available to phones in the community. We can call many places in
the United States by just dialing three more digits at the start of the
Rogers Park Telephone Statistics:
Year Total 1-party 2-party 4-party business
1900 85 unk unk unk unk
1905 372 23 unk unk unk
1910 2117 172 169 1553 243
1915 5322 700 388 3657 577
1920 12,376 2073 1072 7574 1657
1925 23,648 5355 5202 9572 3519
1930 36,691 11,861 12,823 5725 6282
1935 35,732 8556 12,760 8568 5848
1940 40,527 10,055 19,284 4410 6778
1945 43,010 11,994 22,190 2649 6177
1950 53,055 17,984 22,804 1257 11,010
1955 66,547 29,020 18,869 -- 7 18,581
1. During the depression years 1930-35, many people could not afford phones
and had to give them up. The net decrease in that period was almost 900
stations; this is the only period in which there was a decrease rather than
an increase. In that same time period, many people chose to give up private
service and take the less expensive party line service.
2. Illinois Bell Telephone Company, successor to Chicago Telephone Company,
discontinued offering four party service in 1949, but 'grandfathered' it
to existing customers. By 1955, it was almost gone. The last of the four
party subscribers dropped out about 1962.
3. Several large business phone installations occurred during the 1950-55
period, and payphones became much more common, appearing on street corners,
the elevated train platforms, etc. In addition, Loyola University of Chicago
greatly expanded its phone service during the early 1950's. This is shown
in the large increase in other/business category in 1950 and 1955.
4. The largest single increase in subscribers was during the 1900-1910
period, when the number of subscribers increased more than twenty fold in
that decade. The increase between 1905 and 1910 alone was six fold. Having
the exchange staffed full time in its own office became a necessity!
Long after this was prepared and presented at an IBT Company anniversary
dinner, we added the prefix '973' in our area; then five years ago we added
'508'. We 'went ESS' in 1984, as one of the last neighborhoods in the city
to be thus equipped. All the early exchanges are still around, but known
now as 262, 274, 465, 743, 761, and 764. The relative 'newcomers' 338, 508
and 973 never had names.