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Philadelphia Once Had Almost 5,000 Working Pay Phones

There will be a time, in the not-so-distant-future, when Adam Levine will be crooning the lyrics from "Payphone" from the local adult easy listening channel, and your kid will turn to you from the passenger seat to ask: "What's that?" Little will Junior know that at one time, these clunky metal boxes once littered the face of the Earth, and that everyone - from real estate moguls to teenagers - would wait in line for the chance to breathe into germ-encrusted receivers, plunk a coin into the machine, and call home. The era of the pay phone has long since faded. But there's one person who wants to make sure they remain in our collective conscious.

The Payphone Project is an online database dedicated to "bearing witness" to the decline of pay phones by compiling links to news stories, locations of pay phones around the world, and serving as a shared diary for people of a certain age bracket to wax nostalgic about finding a surprise quarter in your pocket just when you thought you had to hang up the phone. Founded and maintained by Mark Thomas, who also regularly tweets under the handle @payphonenews, The Payphone Project is a beautifully-crafted love letter, a treasure map to relics most of which now function as de facto waste bins, or even surprisingly receptive canvases for art.

A photo posted by Paige Smith (@acommonname) on

On the site, Thomas has painstakingly recorded the location of more than 5,000 pay phones in Philadelphia, including number associated with each phone. Incidentally, we called one of the numbers associated with Tasty Baking Co., and no one answered. Perhaps everyone is too busy making tiny pieces of heaven to come to the phone?

· The Payphone Project
· A place in our hearts for pay phones [NYT]