Mercer Islander saw value in old phone technology

Islander’s museum preserves history of the telephone in the Pacific Northwest.

Herbert Warrick

The Herbert H. Warrick Jr. Museum of Communications may well be the only place where you can see, all together, a replica of Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone of 1876, teletypes used by the press, a Western Electric Panel Switch from 1923 and an iconic red British telephone booth.

The first words spoken through that first telephone were Alexander Graham Bell’s: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

Most all equipment is fully operational and includes everything from switchboards to linemen’s tools, early telephone sets and amateur radios — even glass knobs from telephone poles.

The museum, located in Seattle, is named for a Mercer Island resident.

An open house was held at the museum last month in memory of Herbert Warrick, Jr., who died Oct. 2, 2012, at age 89.

Warrick, an army veteran of World War II, had a lifetime career in telecommunications and founded the museum in 1986. His initial vision was to establish three Telephone Pioneer museums in Seattle, Spokane and Portland, but only the Seattle location materialized.

Pacific Northwest Bell provided the building space in the Duwamish Central Office, and the museum became The Vintage Telephone Equipment Museum.

This year, the museum has taken on Warrick’s name.

“Though Herb was always quick to downplay his importance (he always insisted that credit be given to the hard work and dedication of museum volunteers), we could not have done it without Herb,” Don Ostrand, the museum curator, stated. “In honor of that effort and in coordination with Herb’s family, we have expanded our name.”

Warrick’s career began as a bicycle messenger after he graduated from high school. He delivered messages pertaining to the business of the telephone company, explained his wife, Cecelia, 89, who is an Aljoya House resident.

Warrick worked for the same company as his father and brothers, Don and Bob: Pacific Telephone and Telegraph. When he retired, he was the assistant vice president of Special Services and Engineering.

With the advent of two modernization projects to scrap electromechanical switching systems and install new electronic switching equipment, Warrick recognized the need to preserve the vintage equipment. The museum’s collections are divided into switching, telephones, UNIX (a Bell Labs operating system), outside plant, and other equipment.

“They were going to throw away all of the materials that they had, and he felt that they had to be preserved. He was high enough up that he was able to make that happen,” Cecelia said.

The couple met at a ballet in Seattle.

“We both had lost our mates many years before,” Cecelia said. They started dating and then got married.

“We were just happy with each other,” she said. The couple was married for nine years before Warrick’s death.

Working as a telephone operator was Cecelia’s first job, long before she met her husband. She enjoys the switchboard at the museum, she said — it is what she once did.

Perhaps the only foreign relic is the British post office call box model K-6 dating back to 1936. It is from Norwich, England. A museum volunteer had a contact in England over shortwave radio and discussed getting a call box for the museum. British Telecom provided the call box, and the British Air Force arranged for the call box to be shipped out on a Russian cargo plane to Boeing Field. Boeing then transported the 1,500-pound box to the museum, where it was hoisted up to the second floor.

“You can’t just walk through in five minutes,” Cecelia said.

A collection of early telephones at the museum dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s (Museum of Communications/Contributed photo).

This crossbar office is an electromechanical switch from 1937. This frame tests other frame circuits through relays. Switching equipment in the central office connects telephones and routes calls, and six operational vintage panels are displayed at the museum (contributed photo).


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.


More in News

Drive-thru COVID-19 virus testing last week in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett. A study by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group, conducted at Everett Clinic locations, found that a less-intrusive form of the coronavirus test would require fewer precautions by health care workers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
New self-swab COVID-19 test is just as accurate, study finds

The study, under peer review, was led by an Everett Clinic doctor. It could speed up testing nationwide.

Life Care Center (LCC) of Kirkland is facing more than $600,000 in fines for its response to the COVID-19 outbreak in its facility. Samantha Pak/Sound Publishing
Life Care in Kirkland facing more than $600K in fines for COVID-19 response

The facility has until Sept. 16 to pay or address areas of concern or it will be terminated.

Dentist checking patient’s teeth. Sound Publishing file photo
Dental foundation serves Medicaid patients through COVID-19

The Arcora Foundation is also attempting to expand its urgent care database, allowing those with different insurances to use its services during the outbreak.

Gov. Jay Inslee during a press conference April 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Inslee’s Facebook page)
Gov. Inslee extends stay-home order to May 4

As in other states, demand for intensive health care due to COVID-19 is expected to peak later in April.

Unemployment claims continue to climb

For the week of March 22-28, claims have reached more than 181,000.

Inslee to state businesses: Pivot to make medical equipment

The governor said Wednesday that the state must become self-reliant in the fight against COVID-19.

Eastsiders utilize technology to keep things running during COVID-19 outbreak

Technology and online habits have allowed businesses, city governments, nonprofits and residents to keep going while maintaining social distancing. still has listings for medical equipment, but the website includes a caveat and other protections to ensure equipment is supplied to those who need it. Screenshot
Five businesses warned for price gouging

Ferguson sent cease and desist letters to five businesses, including one in Issaquah.

Most Read