Tag: Firehouses

  • 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
  • Beechview Firehouse on Top of an Old Church

    Beechview firehouse

    The firehouse in Beechview is a simple modernist box that seems to have nothing to recommend a second look. At least, nothing from the front; but take a closer look at the foundation.


    This does not look like a typical postwar modernist construction, and in fact it is something else entirely. The firehouse was built on top of an old Presbyterian church.

    The Beechview United Presbyterian Church divided early in its history. Some congregational argument caused part of the congregation to split off and build a church here in 1918. The foundation of the current firehouse is that church—by which we mean not that it was the foundation of the church, but that it was the church itself. Old Pa Pitt does not know what the intention was; he can only assume that a larger building would eventually have been built on top of it. But old pictures show that this foundation was simply roofed over, with a stubby absurd tower on the corner. Half a dozen steps led up to the entrance in this tower, and then there was nowhere to go but down.

    In 1938, twenty years after the breakup, the two Presbyterian churches in Beechview got back together again, and the combined congregation still uses the Beechview United Presbyterian Church on Broadway. But the old church remains as the basement of the firehouse, and we can still pick out the outlines of the Tudor Gothic windows in the stones if we look closely.

    Outlines of old windows
  • Engine House No. 22, Arlington

    This little old firehouse, built in 1894 (according to the sign), has been lovingly restored as a private residence, complete with its own tower and a roof deck that must have a spectacular view. (Those yellow signs in the windows inform the world that the owner has official permission from the city to use a roof deck in his private residence.)

    Update: The August 2023 Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation newsletter informs us that the foundation has just awarded a Historic Lanmark plaque to this building. According to the PHLF, the architect was the prolific Charles Bickel. The architect responsible for turning it into a residence in 1982 was Sam Taylor.

    On city planning maps, this part of the neighborhood is the South Side Slopes, but it is traditionally called “Arlington.”

  • Engine Company 10, West End

    Engine Company 10

    When classical architecture meets Art Deco in a government building, they form a style old Pa Pitt likes to call American Fascist. He calls it that because it’s similar to the streamlined classicism favored by Mussolini and Hitler, and because its favorite ornament is the fasces, as we see right at the top of the façade of this firehouse, which is now a police station. For some reason the fasces declined in popularity as an ornament on American government buildings after the Second World War.

  • Engine House Fifty-Seven, Brookline

    Firehouse in Brookline

    A firehouse that looks like the Platonic ideal of a firehouse. The tower commands a view that must extend for miles: not only is the tower itself tall, but the station is built at the crest of a hill.

    Addendum: The architects were Thomas W. Boyd & Co. This is a near-duplicate of the firehouse by the same firm at 3000 Chartiers Avenue, Sharaden, even though that one is dated 1928, eighteen years later