One wonderfully undeniable feature of Beaver County is its rich history. We live, work, and play on the same grounds that hundreds of thousands have walked before us. It takes a conscious effort to stop our daily routine to reflect on this thought, but spend a few moments gazing out over the Ohio River at the Fort McIntosh site, and you’ll feel it.
Stand were the Delaware and Shawanese stood. Where the Continental soldiers stood.
Wherever you are in Beaver County, just stop and look around today. Think about the sights, the sounds, and the conversations that our predecessors had long before the landscape became riddled with traffic lights and office complexes.
We are fortunate to have a number of buildings that remain standing well over a century after they were built; several are on the National Register of Historic Places to ensure their protection and preservation for our own children and grandchildren to appreciate.
This article premieres our “Then & Now” series, a walk through Beaver County history and its connection to the present.
Then & Now: Bell Telephone Building, 411 Delaware Ave. Rochester, PA
How many times have you driven past this building? The placard reflects its use from 1999 to present – Riverview Apartments.
But the stonework reveals its original purpose: Bell Telephone Building, 1906 – a central office that brought new communication technology to life in Beaver County.
My great aunt, like many women of her generation, worked as an operator here, plugging cords into the switchboard and connecting lines during the heyday of the telephone exchange. By 1948, The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania was reporting sales of $94.2 million. Adjusting for inflation, that would amount to over $926 million today!
Before we started (and then, thanks to the Internet – stopped) receiving giant books of Yellow Pages & White Pages on our doorstops, Bell Telephone published its own telephone directory. The aged pages of this book are what fueled my interest in the Then & Now series, and I am incredibly thankful to have this resource on lend to carefully sift through the pages for inspiration.
The 9-1-1 emergency system was not widespread until the 1970s. If your house was on fire in 1930, you called the operator and asked to be connected to your local fire station so that one one of these would show up:
So what happened to The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania? After a string of sales and mergers, it’s still here: a ghost within Verizon.