Sunday, March 08, 2009

Standing Tall

The "House of Pain," the firehouse at 582 Knickerbocker Ave, caught my attention as I passed last week. The striking modern station sits in the middle of an otherwise empty block, surrounded by a middle school's yard, which serves to highlight its dramatic shape. The Engine Company housed within, number 277, has had three station houses at this address since 1913. The building is also home to FDNY's Ladder Company 112, originally Ladder Company 12 in the Brooklyn Fire Department before the creation of Greater New York.

Of particular interest to me was the building's vertical design, reminiscent of traditional firehouses like the "King of the Hill" station at 423 Ralph (second photo). Architects have been eschewing multi-story firehouse designs in recent years for several reasons, including safety concerns about fire poles and the disappearing need to hang canvas hoses vertically to dry (most hoses today are synthetic). New York City still maintains many stations of more than one story--real estate values haven't fallen that far, yet--but in the case of the House of Pain they clearly had the room (and city-owned land) to erect a shorter, wider station and opted for a more classic tall building.

Does the new station have a pole? It's unlikely, as they've been disappearing all over. However, some companies with multi-story buildings are now using slides, which sound like just as much fun.

Something interesting and unexpected I found while doing a little online research for this post: an interview with Ladder 112's captain that discusses the frequent fires in Bushwick in the 1970s.

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