In the 1960s a new suburban Maryland community had its beginnings when a builder named William J. Levitt came to town. He purchased the Woodward Estate (Belair Mansion) and the many surrounding acres, beginning construction of a new town that would be known as Belair at Bowie. The houses came with then-modern amenities, including the home intercom system. My grandparents’ house, built in 1966, is one such example. When I was a kid I remember we could turn them on and they would still kind of work, but all you could hear was white noise. From what my mom says, these intercoms never really worked that well to begin with but at a time before texting it was an easy way to communicate with people in other ends of the house. There was also an exterior intercom by the front door, as pictured below. Some of the interior intercoms also had the option for an AM/FM radio. By the time my brothers and I came along, we could hear a faint and distant sound from some of the stations as we scrolled through the dial.
I tried to do some research into General Electric home intercom systems but was not successful in an online search, though admittedly I did not go super in-depth. I did find out that they stopped making them in the 1980s when they were deemed obsolete, according to the company website. NuTone was another popular manufacturer of home intercoms starting in the late 1950s. I don’t know if the Levitt Homes that did have the intercoms all used General Electric or if some had NuTone intercoms, but what I do know is this is a fascinating technology of a bygone era that may or may not have worked very well, but the novelty factor is just as present today as it must have been in the 60s when it was a brand new concept.
The photos below show non-operating intercoms in two upstairs bedrooms as they appear today.