33 Thomas Street

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Coordinates: 40°43′00″N 74°00′22″W / 40.71678°N 74.00610°W / 40.71678; -74.00610

AT&T Long Lines Building
33 Thomas Street
AT&T Long Lines building.jpg
General information
Status Complete
Type Utility
Architectural style Brutalist
Location Manhattan, New York, United States
Opening 1974
Owner AT&T
Roof 550 ft (170 m)
Technical details
Floor count 29
Design and construction
Architect John Carl Warnecke

The former AT&T Long Lines Building at 33 Thomas Street is a 550 foot (167.5 meter) tall skyscraper in the Borough of Manhattan, New York, United States. It stands on the east side of Church Street, between Thomas and Worth Streets, in the Civic Center neighborhood of New York City. The building is an example of the Brutalist architectural style with its flat concrete slab facade.

The building is a telephone exchange or wire center building which contained three major 4ESS switches[1] used for interexchange (long distance) telephony, two owned by AT&T[2][3] and one formerly owned by Verizon (decommissioned in 2009).[4] It also contains a number of other switches used for Competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) services,[5] but is not used for Incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) services, and is not a central office.[1] The CLLI code for this facility is NYCMNYBW.[6]


The Long Lines Building was designed by architect John Carl Warnecke and completed in 1974. As it was built to house telephone switching equipment, the average floor height is 18 feet (5.5 meters), considerably taller than in an average high-rise. The floors are also unusually strong, designed to carry 200 to 300 pound per square foot (10 - 15 kPa) live loads.[7]

The exterior walls are precast concrete panels clad with flame-treated textured Swedish granite faces. There are six large protrusions from the rectangular base which house air ducts, stairs and elevators. There is a series of large, protruding ventilation openings on the 10th and 29th floors.[8] William H. Whyte claimed that it features the tallest blank wall in the world.[9][10]

It is often described as one of the most secure buildings in America, and was designed to be self-sufficient and protected from nuclear fallout for up to two weeks after a nuclear blast.[11] Its style has been generally praised, with the New York Times saying it is a rare building of its type in Manhattan that "makes sense architecturally" and that it "blends into its surroundings more gracefully" than any other skyscraper nearby.[12]

View looking up from the adjacent street


The location was previously the site of cast-iron buildings, typical of the area, the facades of which were preserved prior to demolition.[11] The building was a core part of the AT&T Long Lines Department, housing solid-state switching equipment which required a high level of security and space. The Long Lines Department became AT&T Communications in 1984, after the Bell System divestiture. The AT&T Long Lines Building is now commonly known by its street address, 33 Thomas St., like many major New York City commercial buildings.[13]

AT&T gradually transitioned switches and other facilities from their former AT&T Long Lines headquarters building at 32 Avenue of the Americas, just a few blocks away, completing the move by 1999.[14] 33 Thomas is still used for telephone switching, but some of the space is also used as highly secure datacenter space.

On September 17, 1991, management failure, power equipment failure, and human error combined to completely disable AT&T's central office switch at 33 Thomas. As a result, over 5 million calls were blocked, and Federal Aviation Administration private lines were also interrupted, disrupting air traffic control to 398 airports serving most of the northeastern United States. Because the building was designed to be self-sufficient, AT&T had a load shedding agreement with the electric utility, Consolidated Edison, where they would voluntarily switch from utility power to on-site generators on request. This was a routine procedure that had been performed successfully in the past, but on this occasion, it went wrong. After switching power sources, standard procedure was to check all the equipment power supplies, known as DC plants, for problems. But due to scheduled training, the check was not performed, and one plant went on battery backup. The alarms were not detected until it was too late to maintain uninterrupted power.[15]

Street level view of the entrance to the building showing the elevated entry foyer

After the destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001 attacks, AT&T Local Services restored lost facilities they acquired from the former Teleport Communications Group based there, to 33 Thomas and 811 10th Avenue.[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b John Morris (July 21, 2009). "The Most Reclusive Building Downtown". Goodnight Raleigh. Retrieved April 2, 2013. ...It’s a long distance exchange ... and not a CO, and houses three of the largest telephony switches ever created – 4ESS..... 
  2. ^ Cylex Business Directory, 33 Thomas Street, owned by AT&T, directory listing, Accessed April 2, 2013
  3. ^ 33 Thomas St, New York, NY 10007, owned by AT&T, Yahoo listing, Accessed April 2, 2013
  4. ^ Verizon, December 8, 2009, Retirement and Removal of Verizon Broadway 4ESS Tandem (NYCMNYBW21T), Accessed April 2, 2013, ... CLEC, IXC, IEC, wireless and paging carriers ...
  5. ^ Verizon, November 9, 2009 PUBLIC NOTICE OF NETWORK CHANGE UNDER RULE 51.329(A), ... 33 Thomas St (tandem) NYCMNYBW21T ... CLEC IXC, IEC, wireless and paging carriers will need to secure new trunk groups ... Accessed April 2, 2013
  6. ^ "Telcodata.US: Search for Switches by (partial) CLLI Code". Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  7. ^ "AT&T Long Lines Building". Emporis. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  8. ^ "AT&T Long Lines Building". New York Architecture Images. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  9. ^ Roberts, Sam (1989-02-20). "Urban Dance: Choreographing The City Streets; New York pedestrians, an expert says, 'walk fast and they walk adroitly.'". New York Times. pp. B1. 
  10. ^ White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000). AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5. , p. 76
  11. ^ a b "New York Scrapers - International Style III". Great Gridlock.net. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  12. ^ Goldberger, Paul (1982-10-08). "The TriBeCa Scene: Architecture, Restaurants and Bargain Hunting; The TriBeCa Scene: The Flavor Is Found in the Architecture". New York Times. pp. C1. 
  13. ^ "Lower Manhattan Subway Map" (PDF). MTA New York City Transit. 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  14. ^ "Rudins : Telecommunications > Cell Phones from AllBusiness.com". Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  15. ^ United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce (1992). Review of Telephone Network Reliability and Service Quality Standards. pp. iv to v. 
  16. ^ "TenantWise : WTC Tenant Relocation Summary". Retrieved 2007-07-25. 

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