New technology has a tendency to make people uncomfortable. One way to offset this discomfort is to create a traditional image to reassure the public. Holabird and Roche was masterful at creating sturdy classical designs. The Rogers Park Exchange is a simplified version of the Georgian Revival style. And what could be less intimidating than Georgian Revival?
The L-shaped area emphasized in red is the original footprint of the building. The area in blue was added in 1940 as well as an additional floor to the pink portion of the building. In 1960 an additional floor was added to the blue portion, raising it from two stories to three.
The work force consisted of three supervisors, one clerk, one matron, and forty-nine operators. Yes, that's right, a Matron. And both day and night chief operators were women. And those forty-nine operators? Probably young women. At the turn of the century switchboard operator joined teacher and nurse as an acceptable occupation for middle-class women.
But there was an ongoing discomfort about the thought of professional young women working and living in the big city on their own. The fear was that it would be too easy for these women to get into trouble, perhaps not of their own doing. Several organizations opened boarding houses for working women, where they could enjoy communal activities and close supervision. It's telling that the president of the Rogers Park Women's Club, Mrs. E.A. King, was in attendance for the opening ceremony.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.