When Seattle Got Seven-character Telephone Numbers

Scan of 1958 Seattle Telephone Directory when 7-digit dialing was implemented. March 16, 1958 was an auspicious day if you were a telephone subscriber in the Seattle-metro area. On that date, telephone numbers changed from 2 letters + 4 digits to 2 letters + 5 digits. The all-numeric numbers that we're used to now, over 50 years later had yet to appear. Telephone numbers had a named prefix, and you dialed the first two letters of that prefix name plus the following digits. The prefix names (a mnemonic device) were designed to help us remember the number, and the names came from a list of preferred names that Ma Bell kept. In some cases, especially where there was some local item or locale of prominence, exceptions would be made. For example, the RAinier prefix was allowed due to the Rainier Valley and Mount Rainier.

When the change happened, telephone numbers changed, like this:

FRanklin 1212 became EAst 4-1212.
The prefix changed from being just the name (FRanklin), to being the name and one associated digit (EAst 4).

During this transition, many prefixes disappeared completely as they were incorporated into the new prefix naming scheme. For instance, the old CApitol, EAst, FRanklin, MInor exchanges all became part of the new EAst exchange. Exchange names were useful because they gave a clue to where that number was physically located as well as being something people would recognize in speech. Personally, I also found them easier to remember. The central office equipment (aka the telephone exchange) was located in buildings scattered throughout the city, so it made sense to distribute prefixes to specific geographic areas. That concept still holds true today, although it is mostly for older wired telephones. The newer concept that you can take your phone number with you further dilutes this concept and (of course) it is completely unapplicable for cell phones. In most cities in the US, the concept of your telephone prefix identifying your neighborhood still holds true.

Today, there is so much demand for telephones that phone companies had to abandon named prefixes in favor of completely numeric telephone numbers. Why? Because it made all combinations of numbers available for assignment as telephone numbers. Demand for numbers also forced multiple area codes into the plan. Previously, area codes had 0 or 1 as the 2nd number, but this fell by the wayside.

If you like the concept of having a named prefix, you can still choose a name for your prefix (if the numbers allow it) from the old Bell Telephone list of prefix names. 

Original Seattle Prefixes
Changes occurred 3/16/1958
GTE was then known as West Coast Telephone Company
New Numeric Old Location Remarks
ADams 2 232 ADams Mercer Island  
ALpine 5 255 OLive Renton  
ATwater 2 282 GArfield Queen Anne / Magnolia  
ATwater 3 283 ALder Queen Anne / Magnolia  
ATwater 4 284 MUrdock Queen Anne / Magnolia  
ATwater 4 284 TWining Queen Anne / Magnolia  
CEdar 7 237 BRoadway Renton Boeing  
CEdar 7 237 BRoadway Renton Boeing  
CHerry 2 242 LOgan Burien  
CHerry 3 243 CHerry Burien  
CHerry 4 244 SWift Burien  
EAst 2 322 EAst Capitol Hill  
EAst 3 323 CApitol Capitol Hill / Mt Baker  
EAst 4 324 FRanklin Capitol Hill  
EAst 5 325 MInor Capitol Hill  
EMerson 2 362 EMerson Northgate / Lk Forest Park  
EMerson 3 363 GLadstone Northgate / Lk Forest Park  
EMerson 4 364 WAbash Northgate / Lk Forest Park  
EXbrook 2 392 EXbrook Issaquah  
GLencourt 4 454 GIbson Bellevue  
HUnter 6 486 HUnter Bothell GTE
JUniper 5 585 AXminster City of Seattle (?)  
JUniper 6 586 AXminster City of Seattle (?)  
LAkeview 2 522 KEnwood Lakeridge / Sand Point / Wedgewood / Laurelhurst  
LAkeview 3 523 VErmont Lakeridge / Sand Point / Wedgewood / Laurelhurst  
LAkeview 4 524 FIllmore Lakeridge / Sand Point / Wedgewood / Laurelhurst  
LAkeview 5 525 PLaza Lakeridge / Sand Point / Wedgewood / Laurelhurst  
LIncoln 2 542 LIncoln Richmond Beach GTE
LIncoln 6 546 LIncoln Richmond Beach GTE
MAin 2 622 MAin Downtown  
MAin 3 623 ELliott Downtown  
MAin 4 624 SEneca Downtown  
MElrose 2 522 MElrose Wallingford  
MElrose 3 632 EVergreen Wallingford  
MUtual 2 682 MUtual Downtown  
PArkway 2 722 RAinier Rainier Valley Beacon Hill  
PArkway 3 723 LAnder Rainier Valley / Beacon Hill  
PArkway 5 725 MOhawk Rainier Valley Beacon Hill  
PRospect 6 776 MYrtle Halls Lake GTE
PRospect 8 778 GReenwood Halls Lake GTE
SHerwood 6 746 POrter Bellevue  
SUnset 2 782 SUnset Ballard  
SUnset 3 783 HEmlock Ballard  
SUnset 4 784 DExter Ballard  
TAylor 4 824 GYpsy Des Moines  
TIme 4 844 COlumbia Time Teller Lady  
TRinity 8 878 TRinity Des Moines  
TUcker 5 885 TUcker Redmond GTE
VAndyke 2 822 VAndyke Kirkland GTE
VIking 2 842 VIking Bainbridge  
WEst 2 932 WEst West Seattle  
WEst 5 935 AValon West Seattle  
WEst 7 937 HOlly West Seattle  

Last modified 04/02/2011. 00:45:59

Last modified 04/02/2011. 00:45:59