A brief history of the 416 area code

I chose areacode416homes.com as my real estate website domain and @areacode416 as my Twitter handle because it ties nicely into a couple of my passions: Toronto and numbers. It is also a nod to my high school and university summer job as a Bell Canada telephone operator. Zero was my work phone number back then. You may remember me from such catchphrases as "Bell operator — may I help you?" or "Directory Assistance — for what city please?"). 

Some 411 on the  416

1924 – First telephone exchange in Canada was GRover (e.g. GRover 1234, or 47-1234) in the Kingston Road and Main Street area.

GRover telephone exchange

1947 – Original 86 North American area codes are introduced, including 416. First digits use 2-9 (the “4”), second digits are either 0 (if it was the only area code for the state/province) or 1 (if there were multiple area codes). Ontario and Quebec are the only provinces to get two (613 was the other in Ontario). Here is the original 1947 original area code map (source):

1951 – Toronto exchanges begin lengthening from 6 digits (2 letters +4 numbers) to 7 digits (2L+5N). The example below shows the original 2L+4N KEnwood (53) exchange on the lower Coca-Cola sign transforming to the 2L+5N LEnnox (still 53) exchange on the higher Wash and Dry sign.

416 KEnwood and LEnnox exchanges

1953 – 416 splits with the western portions (e.g. Kitchener, London) becoming 519.

1961 – Named prefixes begin to be phased out in favour of All Number Calling (ANC). So LE 3-8903 in the above Wash and Dry sign would now by written as 533-8903.

1993 – 416 splits for the second time, with Metro Toronto (M postal codes) remaining 416, and the suburbs (L postal codes) becoming 905. This is the first new area code in Ontario in 31 years, bringing the total in the province from the original 2 to 6 [519 in 1953, 705 in 1957, 807 in 1962]

2001 – 647 code (overlaying the 416) is introduced, necessitating 10 digit local dialing. (Overlay meaning the 647 is right on top of - and sharing the exact geographic boundaries as - 416.) It was Canada's first overlay code.

2013 – 437 code (another overlay) is introduced.


The 416 existed for 46 years before splitting (1947-1993). Since that split (in half the time) our population growth and the explosion of mobile phones and direct business lines has led to the introduction of 5 more area codes in that territory. It's a fast-paced world! Ontario now has 14 area codes (the below 13 plus 807 in northern Ontario):

Southern Ontario area code map

The future

Each area code accommodates roughly 8 million numbers (7-digit phone numbers still don't start with 0 or 1 or else it would be 10 million). So Toronto has about 24 million numbers for about 2.8 million residents. That sounds like ample room, but another overlay code (387) has been already been reserved for Toronto's future use. That would bring the total to 4 area codes for Toronto, but 387 isn't expected to be needed until around 2034.


Good reads on this subject:
Telephone EXchange Name Project
"Toronto's history in phone numbers" (Spacing.ca article and source of the laundry photo)
Ontario Area Codes

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Scott Ingram

Scott Ingram

CENTURY 21 Regal Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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