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New Firehouse on 113th Street

Engine Company No 47

The firehouse in July 2015.  Larger image.

Exterior view of Engine 47 Quarters

Engine Company No. 47 and Croton Aqueduct Gate House.  Photo: George F. Mand Library.

Morningside Heights

Morningside Heights in 1891.  Larger image.  In this map brick buildings are pink, wood buildings are yellow, and stone buildings are gray.

When Engine Company No. 47 moved north to its newly completed firehouse on April 1st, 1891, it occupied one of the first urban buildings on Morningside Heights. [1] In very little time the urban neighborhood we know today would rise around it.

The fire department was in midst of an intense building period, and would build 42 buildings, all designed by Napoleon LeBrun and Sons, between 1880 and 1895.  These new firehouses incorporated the latest technology: drying towers for the hoses, sliding poles for speed, spiral staircases to minimize space, electrified stalls for rapid deployment of horses, with dormitories, office space, and improved storage to house a new professional force that served on continuous duty.   The new houses were generally built on midblock lots of 25 feet.  The apparatus, horses and house watch desk were located on the ground floor, the dormitories and captain's office were on the second floor, and closets and the sitting/reading area were located on the third floor.

Although they followed a similar functional plan, nearly every building is unique, and many have been given landmark status.  The exterior of Engine Company No. 47 was made a landmark in 1997.  

From the Landmarks Preservation Report:

"Stylistically, it combines features of Romanesque Revival and Classical Revival styles, representing a transition between architectural movements at the turn of the century…. Built early in the period of intense growth in northern Manhattan, this firehouse represents the city's commitment to the civic character of essential municipal services." (p. 1)

"Base: A cast iron frame encompasses the building's large vehicular entrance, centered between the pedestrian doorway on the west and the house watch window on the east.  A Tripartite transom lights each of these openings…  The cast-iron frame incorporates fishscale motifs, sunflower motifs, and wave motifs in the lintel above the transoms.  A protruding brownstone course terminates the brownstone base." (p. 4)

"Upper Stories: The second and third stories are faced with orange-colored brick.  Diaper-patterned terra cotta creates the effect of coins, and continues across the facade, outlining the round-arched windows of the third story.  The second and third story fenestration is boldly defined.  The one-over-one hung windows with metal-framed replacement sash are divided by thick piers, but share a common brownstone sill, transom bar, and lintel.  The third-story one-over-one round-arched windows share a common sill, and are highlighted by the terra-cotta detailing above.  A brownstone plaque set between the second and third stories bears the names of the Fire Commissioners and architects.  The facade is finished with a richly ornamented terra-cotta entablature below a heavy cornice.  Foliate terra cotta medallions are prominently played between the terra-cotta arch outline and the entablature." (p. 5)

[1] New York (N.Y.). Landmarks Preservation Commission, Fire Engine Company No. 47, 500 West 113th Street, Borough of Manhattan: built 1889-90; architects Napoleon LeBrun & Sons (New York: The Commission, 1997),  p.4.