The Napoleon LeBrun firehouse of 1895

High-tech firefighting 1890s style!

1890s HIGH TECH!
The new group page photo is an 1895 firehouse in lower Manhattan. Architect Napoleon LeBrun created it to resemble a French chateau. The station was the first ‘modern’ firehouse in NYC, planned for efficiency in the last decade before fire trucks. .

  1. Horses were stabled behind the rear of the building.
  2. Living quarters were on the 2nd floor.
  3. Wagons carrying 100 gallons – 400 liters – of water, plus steam engines to power the pumps, were parked within. Fires inside the pump engines were kept burning by firemen all the time.
  4. Uniforms hung on walls, with boots below them.

How did all these features work together?

A series of telegraphed bells rings out, telling the firemen a fire’s location, thanks to someone on a street corner blocks away who had pushed a button on the corner callbox.
Firemen upstairs slide down a pole to their uniforms.
A fireman stokes the steam pumps so that the water will boil very soon.
Another one runs back to the stables to hitch up the horses, then lead them forward to hitch the pump wagon behind them.

Result? Men, horses and wagons are running out the door in just four minutes!

P.S. If you remember Bugs Bunny cartoons, there’s an instance of Bugs yelling with an Irish accent, “All right, alllll right, where’s the fire?” What had he been referencing? All this had been in the living memory of the Warner brothers cartoonists, 50 years later.

The 1895 firemen, running toward the citizen who had rung the bells, would shout ahead to them: “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire?” Many NYC firemen were – and are to this day – Irish.

You’ll see this firehouse when you hire me to give you an Old-Tech Tour of lower Manhattan! The firehouse, a lithography shop, and the Brooklyn Bridge are all included.

Whatsapp me at 917-716-4521 or write


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