Western Long Island telephone exchanges

The area that, on this Website, is designated "Western Long Island" is well-defined, but, because the definition is based on conditions that applied only for a very few years in the early 1950s, might seem to be rather arbitrary. It will be useful to give some highlights of the political and telephonic history of this area, and in the course of this narration of the history, the definition of the area in question will be explained.

For all of the nineteenth century, up to the year 1899, this area was a part of Queens County in New York State. But Queens County encompassed a much larger area than the portion here treated as "Western Long Island." After a referendum in 1894, the westernmost 30% of Queens County became part of a new, "greater," New York City in 1898. Three towns of what had been Queens County stayed outside of Greater New York, though one of those towns, Hempstead, lost the Rockaway Peninsula, which did join. A year later, those three towns were constituted as Nassau County.

So the western boundary of the area here defined as "Western Long Island" is the line, established in 1898, serving as the eastern boundary of New York City, and, ever since the 1899 creation of Nassau County, the western boundary of that county. The eastern boundary is defined in telephone-related terms.

In 1883, the New York and New Jersey Telephone Company was founded as one of the subsidiary companies of the Bell Telephone system. Its areas of service were Long Island, Staten Island, and the northern half of New Jersey. It should be noted that "Long Island" referred to the whole island, including those parts that later constituted the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens of New York City; indeed, nobody in 1883 could have predicted that New York City would expand to the area it did in 1898. (Currently, most people in New York City and its environs use the term "Long Island" only to refer to the portion of the island east of the New York City/Nassau County boundary line. It is in that sense that the area here designated as "Western Long Island" is the western part of "Long Island.")

In 1909, the New York and New Jersey Telephone Company was consolidated with several other companies into the New York Telephone Company. The New Jersey properties of NYTelCo were separated in October 1927, being purchased by the Delaware & Atlantic Telephone Company, and the combined company became New Jersey Bell Telephone Company. In October 1947, the Bell System invented a system of area codes, although they were only, at that time, used for internal purposes and were not publicized. Nassau County was part of the 914 area code, along with Suffolk County and about half a dozen counties to the north of New York City. Soon after, in 1951, Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk) was split from 914 and received the 516 area code designation. In 1950, a metropolitan dialing area was established, centered on New York City, including most of Nassau County and a large section of Westchester County, which could be dialed without and prefixed code from New York City. The eastern boundary of the area designated "Western Long Island," which is covered by this page and its associated pages, is the eastern boundary of this metropolitan dialing area, as it cuts across Long Island. The area is almost coterminous with Nassau County, excluding only Farmingdale, which originally was not dialable from New York City, though it became so later.

Besides Farmingdale, two communities in Suffolk County, Amityville and Cold Spring Harbor, eventually became dialable from New York City, and so could conceivably be considered to belong to the Western Long Island area. The exchanges serving these communities also had territories within Nassau County, and consequently those exchanges were actually listed in the Nassau telephone book. However, I decided to use the 1950 New York City metropolitan dialing area to define the area that will be considered Western Long Island, and exclude Amityville, Farmingdale, and Cold Spring Harbor. They are included, instead, with the rest of Suffolk County in the Eastern Long Island pages on this site.

Although the directories fail to separate Farmingdale from the rest of Nassau County, and that area is included in the Nassau County listings, it was not listed with dialable format numbers even after the rest of Nassau County was, however, and so was probably not dialable from the rest of Nassau County until a much later date than all other places.

It should be noted, as remarked earlier, that I am using the term "Long Island" as it is commonly used by people in New York City: namely, excluding the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens within the current city limits, though they are physically on the island of that name. This would not have been common terminology in the early years of the telephone, and in fact directories in those days referred to "Brooklyn, L. I." However, it is necessary to organize this site in a way that handles areas in as consistent a manner as possible. So "Long Island" is used with a single definition, no matter how inappropriate that may have been in bygone eras. Similarly, the division between Western and Eastern Long Island is made based on the local dialing area of New York City as it existed in the early 1950s, although none of this area was dialable from New York City before 1950 and certain areas of what I have called Eastern Long Island on this site became dialable in the latter part of the decade.

Nassau County was sometimes grouped with Suffolk into a single directory and at other times provided with a separate directory. These changes went back and forth, and were not simply a splitting when the combination became too big for a single directory. (For example, Nassau was given a separate directory in the directory dated "Winter 1927-1928," corrected to October 28, 1927, but combined with Suffolk in the next directory, dated "Summer 1928," corrected to May 28, 1928.) For consistency, on this site an attempt has been made to cover Long Island in a consistent manner, regardless of how the directories were organized.

Unlike New York City itself, in Nassau the change-over from listing exchanges in manual format (capitalizing the first letter of the exchange name) to dial format (capitalizing the first two letters) took place in stages. Different exchanges were cut over at different times, and though I presume that this depended on when the exchange became dialable from somewhere, it would not be necessary for the exchange to be itself changed from manual to dial. It is interesting to see that the stickers that were put on the directories announcing the changes did not use the word "dial" but simply referred to a "new number plan."

While in New York City a distinction is made between the "early" dial period (in which three letters were dialed for the exchange name and four digits for the individual line number) and the "late" dial period (in which two letters were dialed for the exchange name, one digit for the "office number," which was considered a part of the exchange, and four digits for the individual line number), there was never an "early" period in Nassau County. The first dial listings were already in the two-letter, five-digit format (which, after all, had been introduced much earlier in New York City than the onset of dial service in Nassau County).

Announcement in the
"1946-1947" directory
(corrected to May 27, 1946)
Announcement in the
"August 1948" directory
(corrected to June 17, 1948)

This section is organized in the same way as is each geographical section of this site: by exchange. Because, as stated above, there was never an "early dial" period, unlike the usual pattern for most places covered on this site, there is only a "pre-dial" and a "dial" period.

The data for the "pre-dial" period is organized into two tables: alphabetical and chronological. The alphabetical chart is similar to other pre-dial-period charts in this site, such as the one for New York City. However, one will notice that the end dates for the exchanges that survived into the dial era are spread over a range of a few years, rather than being all the same.

In the "dial" period, there are four tables, which can be described as alphabetical, numeric, alphabetical/numeric, and chronological:

Western Long Island
Main Western Long Island page
Chronological periods of the Western Long Island data:
Pre-dial period Dial period
Other areas:
The New York greater metropolitan area
New York City
The Northern 914 Area Southern Westchester County Eastern Long Island

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Last modified September 8, 2015.

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