Tag: Firehouses

  • Engine Company No. 30

    Engine Company No. 30
    Composite of two photographs.

    Two firehouses went up back to back at the same time in 1900. The much more elaborate Engine Company No. 1 was built on Second Avenue, now the Boulevard of the Allies. Behind it on First Avenue was Engine Company No. 30, designed by the same architect—William Y. Brady—and built at the same time. Why they counted as two separate firehouses instead of one big firehouse is a question for the fire department.

  • Fire Tower in Brookline

  • Engine Company No. 1

    Engine Company No. 1, Pittsburgh

    A very firehousey-looking firehouse, still in use by city emergency services. According to a city architectural survey, this was built in about 1900 and designed by city architect William Y. Brady. The details are unusual; the style is more or less classical, but instead of Doric or Ionic pilasters, we get unexpected obelisks in relief.

    It is interesting to compare this engine house to the one up the street. That one is also attributed to Brady by the city architectural survey, but Father Pitt, on good evidence, attributes it to Charles Bickel. The styles are quite different. It is possible that Brady supervised some alterations to the Bickel firehouse, and that record confused the surveyors.

  • A Narrow Firehouse by Charles Bickel

    Boulevard of the Allies front of the firehouse

    Given an improbably narrow L-shaped lot to work with, Charles Bickel1 did not despair. Instead, he had fun drawing two quite different but obviously related fronts for the same firehouse. Above, the Boulevard of the Allies front; below, the Smithfield Street front.

    Smithfield Street front

    The style is rich Renaissance with more than a hint of Art Nouveau. Bickel was probably the most prolific architect Pittsburgh ever had, but he did not fill the city with identical boxes. He dabbled in a surprising range of styles.

    Arms of the city of Pittsburgh

    It never hurts to put your client’s coat of arms on the front of the building—in this case, the arms of the City of Pittsburgh.

    Boulevard of the Allies side

    The side of the building is exposed now along the Boulevard of the Allies, showing that it was not very deep, in addition to being very narrow. By 1923, according to old maps, the building was in private hands; the city had built a pair of engine houses half a block away that were probably more suitable for the new horseless fire engines.

    Addendum: A city architectural survey dates this firehouse to about 1900 and attributes it to William Y. Brady. Brady was architect of Engine Company No. 1 down the street, which is in a much heavier style; Father Pitt’s evidence is all in favor of attributing this one to Mr. Bickel.

    1. Our source for the date and architect is the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide, September 21, 1892: “Charles Bickel…has prepared plans for a three-story engine house to be erected on Second Avenue, at a cost of $20,500.” That suggests a date of about 1893. Before the First World War, what is now the Boulevard of the Allies was Second Avenue; and three-storey engine houses are unusual. ↩︎
  • Independent Hose Co. No. 5, Stowe Township

    Independent Hose Co. No. 5 inscription

    The border between McKees Rocks and Stowe Township is whimsical. It cuts diagonally across the Bottoms, bisecting several buildings, so that this firehouse in the shadow of the McKees Rocks Bridge is actually in Stowe Township. In fact, the hypotenuse of this triangular building is the McKees Rocks border.

    Rounded corner

    The architect, whoever it was, responded to an odd-shaped site with an Art Deco building that emphasizes its own triangularity. Since, as old Pa Pitt has remarked before, firehouses are basically men’s clubs, and men’s clubs always block in their windows, this building has lost several of its ground-floor windows. Otherwise it appears to be in close to original shape. It is still in use as a firehouse; it appears on Google Maps both as “Preston Volunteer Fire Department,” which is marked as a fire station, and “Independent Hose Co #5,” which is marked as a bar.

    Full side view
    Wing ornament
  • Engine House, Marshall-Shadeland

    Firehouse at Shadeland Avenue and Dickson Street

    This Romanesque—or shall we say Rundbogenstil? Because we like to say “Rundbogenstil”—firehouse was built for the city of Allegheny, probably in the 1890s to judge by our old maps. The alterations since then can be explained by the fact that a firehouse is basically a men’s club, and men’s clubs in Pittsburgh gradually fill in their windows and block as much natural light as they can. It does make one wonder what they expect to do with that tower now, but perhaps firemen have secret initiation rituals for which a dark tower is the ideal setting.

    Firehouse from the engine end
  • Engine House No. 40, Sheraden

    Engine House No. 40

    Haven’t we been here before?

    Firehouse in Sheraden

    This firehouse looks awfully familiar for a very good reason. It is a mirror image of Engine House No. 57 by the same architects (Thomas W. Boyd & Co.) in Brookline:

    Engine Company No. 57
    This is the one in Brookline.

    The one in Brookline was built in 1910. A city architectural survey dates this one in Sheraden to 1928, but that is probably a misprint for 1908, since a brick firehouse appears here on a 1910 map, and this style would have been terribly old-fashioned in 1928.

    Engine House No. 40
    This is the one in Sheraden again.
  • Engine House No. 39, Elliott

    Engine Company No. 39

    A small firehouse, utilitarian but attractive; it would be more attractive with its original cornice.

    It should be a standard requirement that all buildings must have a bronze plaque installed at the dedication identifying the year of construction and the architect.

    Erected A. D. 1909; Kropf & Dickson, architects

    Is the Kropf of Kropf & Dickson the Henry M. Kropff who would later design Alder Court in Shadyside? If so, it appears that his name is unspellable in bronze; the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation plaque on Alder Court spells it “Kroff.”

  • No. 1 Firehouse, Sharpsburg


    An old firehouse converted to a commercial building on Main Street in Sharpsburg. It still has its bell.

    No. 1 Firehouse
    No. 1 Firehouse, Sharpsburg
    Sharpsburg reflected

    Sharpsburg, including St. Mary’s Church, reflected in the windows.

  • Truck Co. No. 50, Lafayette Hilltop

    Truck Co. No. 50, Lafayette Hilltop

    An elegant little classical firehouse, still in use as a medic station, on Lafayette Avenue at the corner of Federal Street. It dates from before 1910 and after 1903.

    From Federal Street