Tag Archives: Napoleon LeBrun

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

Google Map

Engine 39 / Ladder 16

The Fire Engine 39 / Ladder 16 Station House originally served as the headquarters of the New York Fire Department. It’s the third of four late-1880s landmarks in a row on E 67th Street.*

Napoleon Lebrun & Son, which designed more than 40 buildings for the department, designed this one in Romanesque Revival style. While Lebrun’s design included space for the Fire Commissioners and staff, the headquarters outgrew its space and moved to the Municipal Building in 1914. The fire telegraph (communications system) moved out in 1922. A lookout tower once topped the building’s right-hand bay (the section with single windows) – but was removed in 1949. The building became a training center, but by 1970 the city had planned to demolish the building. In 1980 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building as one of four landmarks on the block – but the Board of Estimate overturned the designation (and that of the adjoining police station). In the end, compromise: The facades of the fire house and police station were preserved and restored (1992), but new structures were built behind the 1880s face. The police precinct now uses the upper floors of the fire station.

(Unconfirmed scuttlebutt has it that “some 3 letter agency” operates/operated out of the building, which is directly across the street from an Eastern-bloc mission. Keep that under your hat.)

You might also enjoy Napoleon LeBrun’s Engine Company 31 on Lafayette Street, in a different architectural style – considered his most flamboyant fire house design.

*The four E 67th Street landmarks are: Mount Sinai Dispensary (now Kennedy Child Study Center) at 149; 19th (originally 25th) Police Precinct at 153; Engine Company 39/Ladder Company 16 Station House at 157; and Park East Synagogue, 163.

Engine 39 / Ladder 16 Vital Statistics
Engine 39 / Ladder 16 Recommended Reading

Google Map

Engine Company 14

Engine Company 14 is typical of early New York City firehouses – typically ornate, that is. The Department’s official architect, Napoleon Le Brun, made each house different.

The care given to firehouse design reflected the Fire Department’s campaign to raise the department’s professionalism, as it shifted from a volunteer to paid force.

Engine Company 14 Vital Statistics
Engine Company 14 Recommended Reading

Google Map

Napoleon LeBrun

Philadelphia-born Napoleon LeBrun (1821-1901) entered architecture at age 15, working in the office of Thomas Walter. He began his own practice just six years later, and designed several Philadelphia landmarks before moving to New York in 1864.

LeBrun is best known for churches and civic buildings; LeBrun and sons Pierre and Michel designed more than 40 buildings for the Fire Department of New York between 1880 and 1895. The firm also designed the landmark Metropolitan Life Building and the annex Tower, Home Life Insurance Company Building, and, further afield, upstate New York’s sprawling Mohonk Mountain House.

Napoleon LeBrun Representative Buildings
Napoleon LeBrun Suggested Reading