Chemical No. 5 Firehouse
166 Cleveland Ave. at St. Catherine's Court, Buffalo, New York
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At left, St. Catherine's Court, originally part of the John J. Albright estate


Art Nouveau style tie rods and lettering

Art Nouveau style tie rod

Foliated corbel

Foliated corbel


Bellcote provided ventilation as well as space for the bell

Slate roof

Rear and east elevations

Hay loft crane


Edward A. Kent

Original Name:

Engine No. 37

Renamed Chemical No. 5 because of the practice of fighting fires with a mixture of chemicals and baking soda to increase water pressure.


On the northwest corner of the estate of John J. Albright. Kent also designed the Unitarian Universalist Church on W. Ferry and Elmwood, also originally on the Albright estate. When Albright donated the land and money for the church, he reserved approval rights for the building design. Perhaps a similar arrangement took place regarding the firehouse.




Art Nouveau details (wrought-iron decorative pieces (construction rods) and name in front of building)


The great beams that arch over the interior of the ground floor were delivered from North Carolina, the only place where wood of that quality could be obtained. The wooden beams span 30 feet and are reinforced with steel.

High steep roof built to accommodate the hoses that were hoisted there to dry.

A bit of history:

Chemical #5 was built to accommodate horse-drawn fire equipment. It stabled horses on the ground floor, with space on the second for the crew and for feed for the horses.

Building ceased being a firehouse about 1969. In 1989 University at Buffalo's Dean of the Architecture and Environmental Design Bruno Freschi and his wife turned the firehouse into a residence and studio.

Originally, there was a 6-foot terra cotta gargoyle , hind legs but no front legs, a long neck and a hyena-like head and little wings.

The firehouse captain was John McTigue, nearly 7 feet tall


One of Buffalo’s most exceptional historic public service buildings exists in the Elmwood Historic District (East) at 166 Cleveland Avenue (1894, contributing), at the corner of St. Catherine’s Court. Built as a firehouse in 1894, the building occupied land at the northern edge of John J. Albright’s estate.

Designed by notable architect Edward Austin Kent, who also designed the Unitarian Universalist Church around the corner on West Ferry Street, this is a rare, stunning example of a late nineteenth century firehouse with Art Nouveau detailing such as foliated corbels and curled tie rods.

The high, steeply pitched gabled roof created plenty of space for firehouses to hang while drying.

During a time when firefighters still relied on horses, this building accommodated stables on the ground floor and space for the firefighting crew, as well as hay and feed, on the second floor. A crane used to raise hay to the second floor can still be seen on the exterior of the building, indicating this early system of fighting fires.

The words ‘Chemical No. 5’ adorn the brick arched center bay, which accommodated for the size of horse drawn fire equipment, indicates the unit’s special function in the first decades of the turn of the twentieth century. During this time, the Buffalo Fire Department had six chemical companies in service, of which this was the fifth, and is the last remaining remnant of this unit in the city today. Chemical units were charged with creating a special mixture of chemicals with baking soda, designed to increase water pressure in the hoses. As pressurized hose systems advanced, Chemical No. 5 was disbanded in 1920, and became Engine No. 37 until 1966, when it moved to the West Side at Chenango Street and Rhode Island Street.

In 1989, the former firehouse was converted it into an elegant, unique residence and studio. Today it exhibits Kent’s architectural prowess in excellent condition, and serves as the only remaining firehouse in the Elmwood district.

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Photos and their arrangement 2001 Chuck LaChiusa
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