The Bell Telephone and Telegraph Switching Station, or Bell Station was determined eligible for the listing in the National Register of Historic Places at the local level of significance. Its period of significance commenced in 1929 when the original complex was constructed, and it served as the primary telephone switching station for the area. The utility installed long distance cable through this station, connecting Bakersfield and Los Angeles in 1929. Five years later, the effects of the Depression, likely coupled with rapidly evolving technology resulted in its owner partially vacating the facility.
In California, Pacific Bell Telephone and Telegraph
Company was a part of the larger Bell System.
At the time of its construction, because the area was remote, Pacific
Telephone and Telegraph Company built a self-contained facility for its workers
with various types of residential facilities, mechanical rooms, horse and mule
stables, and a cleverly disguised water tower with a windmill. The complex was erected at a reported cost of
$80,000 with an equipment investment of $150,000. The architectural style was described as
Spanish by Southern California Telephone Company’s division manager, M. L.
Standard, with “low tile roof[s] and stucco finish” chosen for “the
appropriateness and harmony” of design to be compatible with existing
communities in 1929.
The Switching Station is closely linked to the
historical developments of the Pacific Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company and
its successors. Long distance telephone
service originated in the early 1900s. Calls
were routed through multiple local connection facilities originally called “switching
stations,” later “repeater stations” (1929) and finally “step-up to voice”
currents (1930). Stations had live
operators who manually routed calls, using hard-line connections, linking points
that transferred the calls to other telephones, farther switching stations or
to local phone connections. Typically,
telephone calls were placed with support from switching stations located at approximately
20-mile intervals, so a hundred-mile call required five switching stations,
each with separate operators manually connecting the lines. By the turn of the twentieth century, the
earliest telephone companies were expanding service areas and thus their capabilities
beyond local municipalities enabling actual “long distance” telephone service.
By the end of World War II, the process had become largely
automated, requiring few employees and a less labor-intensive process for remaining
personnel. The early, arduous telephone switching function is now achieved by
advanced computer technology, which automatically connects phone lines.
Today, the Bell Station compound is circumscribed by a chain-link fence
with gates and has been converted to an alternate use.
Contributing resources to the Bell Station include each
of the original Spanish Eclectic style buildings. Those buildings exhibit related character-defining
features including their common, deeply overhanging terra cotta tile-finished roofs; exposed, shaped rafter tails; stucco-clad
exterior walls deeply inset original windows of various shapes and sizes including
large, arched steel sashed picture windows and smaller wood sash windows; covered,
arched porches and open exterior arcades; elaborate decorative chimneys, decorative
pierced vents and the low sloping, rural hillside setting. The tall, slender, stucco-clad water tower
structure is tapered, has three-part windows at the top and Juliette balconies
on each of its four sides. At the base,
double wooden doors have exaggerated narrow, “arrowslit”-type single windows
above. Significant buildings include the
one and a half-story primary switching station and its components; three small,
interconnected residences for married employees; the larger residential
building that served as residential quarters for single, male employees, and
the covered water tower structure. The
Bell Station property includes all of the fenced area south of State Route 138
which contains all contributing buildings, structures and its associated
landscape. Noncontributing elements
include the modern, corrugated metal shed and animal shelter, each of which was
constructed after the period of significance (1934) and is a utilitarian design. The larger original property included other
uses and was sold to George Kinsey in the 1960s (see Kinsey Mansion at 34860