Chatting last week with a friend about changes in New York city, centered around the demolishing of Pennsylvania Station, the inadequacies of the current building known as Penn Station, and the endlessly unfulfilled plans (perhaps now moving forward) to turn the Farley Post Office into a new Pennsylvania Station. And my friend remarked that he’d been in NYC a few years ago and was astonished to discover that the Pennsylvabia Hotel still had the phone number PEnnsylvania 6-5000 — trusting that that reference would, um ring a bell for me (this only works for people of a certain age, or fans of swing music). So it did, and gave me an earworm for the rest of the day.

The crucial background, from Wikipedia:

PEnnsylvania 6-5000 is a telephone number in New York City, written in the 2L+5N (two letters, five numbers) format that was common in the largest US cities from approximately 1930 into the 1960s. The named Pennsylvania exchange served the area around Penn Station in New York. The two letters, PE, stand for the numbers 7 and 3, making the phone number 736-5000, not including the area code 212 for Manhattan.

The number is best known from the 1940 hit song “PEnnsylvania 6-5000”, a swing jazz and pop standard recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Its owner, the Hotel Pennsylvania [401 7th Avenue (15 Penn Plaza) in Manhattan, across the street from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden], claims it to be the oldest continuing telephone number in New York City.

You can listen to the song here, in the 1940 Glenn Miller recording that I remember best; in the breaks, the band shouts out “Pennsylvania six five thousand”. There’s an instrumental-only version, and also one with full, rather sappy, sung verses.

The old, original, true Penn Station appeared (in an interior view) as #2 in a 11/13/14 posting “A ride on the Reading Railroad”; I haven’t bothered to post about the current station. But here’s a recent photo of the other neighnorhood landmarks, the Hotel Penn:


and the Farley Post Office:


It has long been a monumental neighborhood.

Bonus: Transylvania 6-5000, the movie.


From Wikipedia:

Transylvania 6-5000 is a 1985 American/Yugoslav horror comedy film about two tabloid reporters who travel to modern-day Transylvania to uncover the truth behind Frankenstein sightings. Along the way, they encounter other horror movie staples — a mummy, a werewolf, a vampire — each with a twist.
Directed by Rudy De Luca, the film stars Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley, Jr., Joseph Bologna, and Geena Davis. Notable other cast include Michael Richards, Carol Kane, Teresa Ganzel, John Byner, and Jeffrey Jones.
The title is a pun on “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, a song made famous by Glenn Miller.

One Response to “PE6-5000”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Sidenote on 2L+5N: There’s some evidence that at least in some places this had been 3L+4N. Specifically, of the six exchanges that were in use in Cambridge, MA, when I first lived there (mid-1960s), four of them (354, 547, 864, 876) clearly originally used the first three letters of the named exchanges (ELIot, KIRkland, UNIversity, TROwbridge).

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