Tag Archives: firehouse

Fire Houses

What’s a fire house? Just a dorm with a garage, right? No way!! It’s where New York’s Bravest hang their helmets while pursuing arguably the most exciting career in the city. It’s where a kid might loiter on a summer afternoon: Waiting for the bells to summon firefighters to another blaze, watching the trucks roar to life, hearing the sirens and bells warn mere mortals to clear the way. (Well, fire trucks used to have shiny brass bells, and if you asked really nicely, the firemen would sometimes let you ring the bell.)

That excitement and romantic view of firemen must have inspired New York architects, because they designed some really awesome fire houses!

The elaborate stations of the early 1900s came about as New York City transitioned from volunteer corps to a paid professional force. The FDNY had its own architect, which for many years was Napoleon LeBrun. His crowning work was the station for Engine Company 31, a Loire Valley chateaux-style confection now used as television studios.

Incidentally – when you see a tower attached to or sprouting from a firehouse, that’s where they hang their hoses to dry between fires.

This photo gallery is but a small sample; you might also enjoy the “Ten House” (Engine Company 10/Ladder Company 10) website – it’s a portal into dozens of FDNY websites: www.fdnytenhouse.com/fdnylinks.htm

Engine Company 31

Engine Company 31 is the most elaborate of Napoleon LeBrun’s firehouse designs, and was derided as “a manifestly extravagant absurdity.” Extravagant or not, it’s certainly impressive.

Engine Company 31 moved in during 1895 after New York City sold the unit’s old home to New York Life Insurance Company. The Fire Department left the building in 1970 and Engine Company 31 was ultimately disbanded in 1972. The Downtown Community Television Center now uses the building as a studio and production center.

Engine Company 31 Vital Statistics
  • Location: 87 Lafayette Street at White Street
  • Year completed: 1895
  • Architect: Napoleon LeBrun & Sons
  • Floors: 3
  • Style: Loire Valley Chateau
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1972
Engine Company 31 Suggested Reading

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