The Telephone Exchange in Pine Street taken soon after the building was erected in 1904.
The Telephone Exchange in Pine Street taken soon after the building was erected in 1904.

Nommer asseblief… Durban central exchange remembered

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Jul 31, 2021

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THE OLD picture this week comes from a postcard showing the old telephone exchange on the right with its domed roof. It was designed by architect Reginald Guy Kirby and built in 1904.

Historian Gerald Buttigieg, in Facts About Durban, writes that the city, at one point, had six telephone exchanges built by the Durban Corporation Telephone Department, with two on the Berea. The Stamford Hill Exchange in Windermere Road was added in 1923, and the Toll Gate exchange (in Berea Road near Hunt Road) in 1925/1926.

The Stamford Hill Exchange code was “3” (all numbers began with 3) and Toll Gate’s code was “4”. “Two” was used in Central.

In the 1930s, a new exchange was installed at Central Exchange which had exchange code “6” and was used to service the Durban North area. Also in the mid 1930s, the Congella exchange was commissioned at the corner of Francois and Bartle roads, with exchange code “5”.

In the early 1960s, because of the expansion of the network, a new central switching exchange was commissioned and coded “Central 31”. This necessitated that all the satellite exchanges working off it had to add an additional digit, so 3, 4 and 5 became “33”, “34” and “35”.

The Telkom building with Pine Parkade and Nichol Square in Monty Naiker Street today. Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency(ANA)

In April 1969, the Durban Corporation Telephone Network was taken over by the Department of Posts and Telecommunications after the introduction of national subscriber trunk dialling which saw the demise of the old “Number please/nommer asseblief” system.

The exchange was demolished in 1977 and today, Pine Parkade stands in front of it and Nichol Square behind where the trees as can be seen, in the pictures our photographer Shelley Kjonstad shot last week.

The Independent on Saturday

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