Here are some answers to some
frequently asked questions regarding this site.
What is a Telephone
A Telephone Central Office
(sometimes known as a Telephone Exchange) is the central location
point where telephone switching occurs for a particular region. A
telephonically served region is technically known as a "wirecenter"
and a location for billing purposes is called a "ratecenter".
Often times they're one in the same, but in large ratecenters you may
have many wirecenters. Each wirecenter has a telephone switch that
handles calls for subscribers, and these telephone switches are housed
in buildings known as Central Offices (or telephone exchanges).
Inside each Central Office is a telephone "switch" that handles calls
between subscribers or from subscribers to other switches in the
network. They can have links (or trunks) to telephone "tandems" where
many calls are handled for long distance communications. This site
mainly focuses on local switching system buildings in the United States
What are the types
of Telephone Central Office switches?
In the United States and Canada, the main types of central offices
switching systems are the 5ESS series (Lucent/Western Electric),
the DMS series (Nortel), the EWSD series (Siemens),
GTD5-EAX (Automatic Electric), DCO series (Stromberg-Carlson)
and others. As time has moved forward, these traditional circuit
switched systems are being replaced with more modern packet switching
systems from Metaswitch and Ribbon Communications. However they are
mostly still housed in traditional central office buildings.
If you're looking for telephony technology in general (and more details
on these telephone switching systems please see our sister site
Telephone World (a sister
site to this one).
What is the goal
of the site?
The goal of the site is to collect pictures of all of these Telephone
Central Office (aka telephone exchange) buildings before they completely
disappear. As landline calls are dwindling in number, the fate of these
buildings are in question. So far they're mostly still in existence, but
over time we expect them to be consolidated and some even disappear
Most of these buildings are not ornate and are built to serve a purpose.
But many older ones were built in the "grand" days of telephony and due
to the size of the switching systems of yesteryear (step by step and
crossbar) some of them are quite large. More recent buildings are small
and utilitarian. We strive to capture pictures of all of them.
How many Central
Office buildings are there?
As of January 2021 there are around 18,800 central office buildings in
the United States and around 3,100 in Canada. As of October 2021, we
list over 6,200 of these central offices, or only around 1/3 of all of
This is not the only site that has pictures of Telephone Central
Offices. Please see The
Central Office, operated by a former telephone company employee.
This site is dedicated to two people (who are no longer with us) who
were the inspiration for the site. Mark Cuccia was a telephone
historian who helped out with a number of the historical aspects of this
site and of Telephone World (a sister site to this one). Parris Wood
ran a similar site called Telebeans that collected pictures and
information of telephone central offices in the Mid-Atlantic region.
(I've preserved his website called
Telebeans for posterity.)
If you're looking for sounds of what the telephone network USED to sound
like in the 1970s, please visit
Evan Doorbell's Telephone Tapes
(another sister site to this one).
Can I Contribute?
We are ALWAYS looking for volunteers to take pictures of
telephone central offices. If you wish to get involved, please let us
know and we can help you with locating them. And please remember that
this site's goal is for historical preservation and not to cause any
And if you have questions
please drop us a
line and we'll try to answer them.
Copyright 2021 Telephone Central Office Building Pictures
Page last modified October 17, 2021
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