The morning of February 27, 1975 brought a fire in the telephone building at 204 Second Avenue, at East 13th Street. The building housed the Main Distribution Frame that served customers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn--the mainframe was destroyed, disconnecting tens of thousands of customers, and switching equipment was melted or damaged by smoke. The fire took out approximately 170,000 lines. The Bell System immediately went into company-wide action, restoring service within about 2 weeks, and brought rolling phone trucks to lower manhattan to provide at least some service to residents.
The filmmakers were quick on the scene and started rolling cameras to document not just the recovery of the system by the efforts of firemen, Bell executives, and Bell workers, but put lenses on affected customers as well, to tell the full picture in this cinéma-vérité documentary.
The 2nd Ave. disaster was the largest loss of telephone service from fire in United States history. On that occasion, service was disrupted to approx. 300,000 circuits and 10 cellphone towers.
A Gordon/Glyn Production Albert Maysles provided footage
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ