Fire Engine #2, Hook and Ladder #9
304-306 Jersey Street, Buffalo, NY
|Porter & Watkins|
|In use 1875-1997 (Buffalo's firehouse in use for the longest period of time)|
|Kleinhans Community Association|
On this page:
- History of Buffalo Fire Engine House #2
- Biography of Cyrus Kinne Porter
- Biography of Eckel & Ackerman
- A Visit to a New Public Building
- Description of the Building
- Engine 2, Ladder 9 by Kleinhans Community Assoc.
- Engine 2, Ladder 9 by Christopher Brown
- Pages 69-72 in Historic Plymouth Avenue in the Kleinhans Neighborhood by Christopher N. Brown
Right: Karpeles Manuscript Museum
The 3-story Second Empire style firehouse reconstructed after 1917 fire
East side (right of building) has round headed dormers
Second floor paired windows have pediment-like stone heads
Detail from previous photo
In the years following the Civil War, Buffalo's waterfront became increasingly commercialized as Buffalo firmly asserted her position as the nation's premier inland port. It was only natural that Buffalo's upscale population would begin to look north for residential development away from the commercial encroachment that was beginning to occur on the older waterfront neighborhoods. The scope of this post-Civil War northerly migration was small by today's standards, for in that era "north" meant as far as North Street.
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted [and his partner Calvert Vaux] assisted in the development of these new neighborhoods when in 1868 he was invited here to design Buffalo's park system and the residential parkways that linked them. In the early 1870s the Parks Commissioners focused their efforts on the implementation of Delaware Park, The Front and The Parade (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Park). After these parks were complete they turned their attention towards the construction of the parkways and circles in Olmsted's plan.
In 1874 the Commissioners requested Olmsted to revise his plan for Symphony Circle and he completed the revisions in August of that year. The important residential park was graded in the autumn of 1874 and shortly thereafter wealthy Buffalonians began to erect mansions and dwellings of a slightly smaller scale on Symphony Circle and its surrounding streets.
Joseph R. Williams, the Superintendent of the Fire Department, took notice of all the new homes being built and on December 14, 1874 informed Buffalo's Common Council of the "immediate necessity" for a steam fire engine and hose cart near Symphony Circle.
By early 1875 it was decided to build a fire engine house in the vicinity, although not everyone was in unanimous agreement. Clark & Co., a dealer in building hardware at 426-428 Niagara Street between Hudson and Maryland Streets was staunchly opposed to its creation and filed a formal remonstrance with the City. The Common Council denied the remonstrance and designated property which the City owned on Symphony Circle be used for the erection of the new engine house. The area the Council designated is presently the site of the Birge Mansion.
Perhaps the City Aldermen thought better of using the valuable property around Symphony Circle for an engine house, because they quickly changed the proposed location and purchased a 60 by 126 foot lot on Jersey Street on the north west corner of Plymouth Avenue. The site was formerly the home of the Jersey Street Methodist Church which was erected in 1867 and burned on January 23, 1873. The Church sold the lot to the City for a sum of $3,000 and built a new church across Plymouth Avenue where its circa 1911 successor still stands, today better known as the Karpeles Document Manuscript Museum.
Edward Hager, the Commissioner of Public Buildings was entrusted with the job of erecting the engine house. Hager commissioned Cyrus Kinne Porter and George Watkins of the firm Porter & Watkins to design the building.
Porter was a prominent architect who worked in Buffalo from 1865 until his death in 1910. His best known surviving work in Buffalo is the Trinity Episcopal Church at 371 Delaware Avenue. After Porter & Watkins completed the plans for the new engine house its construction contract was opened to competitive bid. In April of 1875 Hager awarded the building contract to carpenter Julius Schramm who had bid the job at $10,020.
The building was complete by the end of 1875 and Hager invited the Common Council to tour the building during Engine House #2's grand opening on December 14, 1875. The building was hailed as the being the handsomest of its kind in the City and
among the finest in the United States.
Besides the fire engine, the house was equipped with four horses, a sleigh, a wagon and "furnishings."' In addition to the standard mechanical items one would consider necessary for an engine house, the furnishings also included seven black walnut bedsteads, twelve black walnut chairs, one centre table, one black walnut table, seven arm chairs, one stair carpet, two Brussels carpets, five chandeliers, and seventeen spittoons." The furniture was provided by Burns & Lombart Furniture Company of 61 E. Seneca Street."
A new fire engine, the steamer L. P. Dayton (named for Lewis P. Dayton, Mayor of Buffalo 1874-1875) was constructed for the fire house by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co., of Manchester, NH and placed into service on June 2, 1875. The steamer Dayton did not stay there very long and by 1878 the steamer General Rogers (named for General William F. Rogers, Mayor of Buffalo 1868-1869) was stationed at Engine House #2.
The new fire house boasted several mechanical features which were considered advancements in their day. The building was heated by a Peter Martin Patent Moist Air Furnace manufactured by Hauck & Garono Hardware Dealers at 505 Main Street. Besides heating the house, the furnace also provided hot tap water for the bathroom on the second floor. The bathroom with its hot and cold running water was specifically cited as "one of the noticeably excellent features of the building." An electrical stall door opener was another new technological innovation introduced in the building. William Wait, the first engineer at Engine House #2 invented a way to utilize steam from the building furnace and direct it to the fire engine to keep it ready at all times without having to keep the steamer engine fired.
It is interesting to note that the new engine house was staffed by some of the first paid firemen in the City. At that time the City's firemen consisted of paid staff supplemented by volunteer fire companies. The inaugural staff at Engine House #2 also included Engineer William B. Lewis, Stoker Cornelius O'Brian, Driver and Steamer Walter S. Harris, Driver and Hose Cart Attendant James P. Winspear and Firemen Eugene Jarvis, Allen J. Maxon and Henry Metzger .
As the years went by and the surrounding area grew in residential popularity, a need arose to house a ladder at the site. In 1896 Louis P. J. Eckel and Alan J. Ackerman of the architectural firm Eckel & Ackerman were commissioned to design an addition to the building, and on July I, 1897, Hook and Ladder #9 was based at the Jersey Street site. By that time Engine House #2 was well known for its fine horses and on November 14, 1898, firemen there set a record when they executed a three horse hitch in the "astonishing" time of SlX seconds.
Although there are many beautiful fire houses in the City of Buffalo, Engine House #2 is unique. The three-story brick Second Empire building is an excellent example of the style that was so popular during the 1870s. Its straight-sided mansard roof still retains its hexagonal slate tile and is pleasantly interrupted by dormers with pedimented windows. The second story windows on the front of the building are decorated with stone lintels and pediment-like stone heads in a carved foliate pattern.
The second story also has a series of nine brick pilasters capped by stone with a scroll and foliate pattern.
The first floor originally had highly ornamental entrance doors with stone decorations that were similar to the adornments crowning the second story windows. On the Plymouth Avenue side of the building the first floor windows are of the round arched variety while the second story sports segmental arched windows.
The interior of the building retains its tin ceiling and marble slab bathrooms. When built the first floor featured high wainscoting of alternate ash and black walnut.
Many of the design features of the interior clearly show its original design considerations for the interdependency between the firemen and their horses. The last major change to the building seems to have occurred about 1917 when the ornamental entrance doors on Jersey Street were removed and larger doors installed as a concession to the advent of gasoline engines when the meaning of "horsepower" changed to only indicate a relative index.
With the opening of the new fire engine house this year at Elmwood A venue and Virginia Street the chapter of Jersey Street Engine House #2's history as a fire house is closed. It is appropriate to remember that the old building has served the west side community well in its 122 year active and continual history as an engine house. The 1875 building evolved and survived significant technological and social changes through the last century and remains to remind us of those wonderful early years in Buffalo's development when firemen answered the call of duty with their fine horse-driven steam fire engines.
Christopher N. Brown
Biographical information regarding Cyrus Kinne Porter of the firm Porter & Watkins, architects of initial structure, 1875
The following information is from Extra Number of the Buffalo Morning Express, Issued as a Souvenir of the International Industrial Fair, Sept. 4th to 14th, 1888. Buffalo, NY: Matthews, Northrup & Co., 1888, page 44. It describes Porter at the height of his career:
One of the best known architects of the city is Cyrus Kinne Porter. Mr. Porter is of Puritan descent. The town of Cicero, Onondaga County, was his birthplace. At the age of seventeen Mr. Porter was left an orphan and thrown entirely upon his own resources. As he was of a mechanical turn he resolved to learn the trade of a joiner. While learning his trade, and subsequently while working at it for a livelihood, he began the study of architectural drawing. His first instructor was an itinerant teacher and architect, who was nominally located in Detroit. From this time forward the young man gave his entire attention to architecture. He soon mastered the principles of practical geometry and linear perspective, and developed into an accomplished draughtsman. In 1853 he secured employment as a draughtsman for the Chicago Water Works, in which occupation he remained for some two years. He then, with a partner, opened an office in Brantford, Ontario.
In 1865 Mr. Porter came to Buffalo, and soon after entered into partnership with H. M. Wilcox. The firm of Wilcox & Porter designed several very important buildings, among which were the Ovid Insane Asylum and Normal schools at Fredonia, Cortland, and Potsdam. In 1867 Mr. Porter won the second prize of $2,000 in an open competition for the best design for the War Department Building at Washington. Several pieces of successful work for the people of Bay City necessitated the opening of a branch office in that place. The Courthouse of Bay County and the Baptist Church of the city were both built from Mr. Porter's designs.
In this city he has designed more business blocks and more dwellings than could be enumerated in a column. The Coal and Iron Exchange and the Brayley house at the corner of Main and Tupper streets are fair examples of his skill in these directions. Mr. Porter's greatest successes have been in ecclesiastical architecture. The new Trinity Church on Delaware Avenue is justly regarded as a specimen of his best work.
Mr. Porter is now associated with his son under the firm name of Cyrus K. Porter & Son. The place of business is in the American Block at room No.43.
At the time of his death, his published obituary listed some of his greatest architectural design achievements:
Many of the city's largest buildings of two decades were designed by him, including the American Block, the Coal and Iron Exchange, the Builders' Exchange, Trinity Church on Delaware avenue, the Church of the Holy Name, St. Patrick's Church, and in recent years the William Hengerer Company store. In the early years his office was in the Weed Block at Swan and Main streets, in which Grover Cleveland's office was also located. From there he moved to the American Block, in which he occupied offices for about 20 years, and moved with other tenants to the Brisbane Building 12 years ago when the offices in the American Block were given over to mercantile purposes.
Source: "Designed Many of Buffalo's Largest Business Buildings. Trinity Church, Builders' Exchange and William Hengerer Store Among Many in Whose Erection Cyrus K. Porter Had a Hand." Buffalo Evening News, January 31, 1910.
Biographical information regarding Eckel & Ackerman, architects of addition, 1897
The following information is taken from "Eckel & Ackerman, Architects, 879 Niagara Street," Buffalo of Today, The Queen City of The Lakes. Buffalo and Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co., 1893, page 206
The first thing that arrests the attention of the visitor to our city is the substantial character and beautiful style of the buildings that line our practical thoroughfares. In respect of the architectural magnificence of its principal buildings. Buffalo has of late years made great and commendable progress, and this is to be attributed not alone to the local pride of capitalists and property owners, but also to the skill and taste of our architects.
Identified with the increased tastes manifested in private residences and public buildings in this city are the names of Messrs. L. P. J. Eckel & A. J. Ackerman, who form the firm of Eckel & Ackerman.
Both of these gentlemen are natives of Buffalo, and since the formation of their present copartnership in 1890, have secured a liberal and influential patronage. They exert every effort to please and satisfy their clients, and many notable buildings of recent construction have been erected from their designs, and constructed under their supervision.
Among others may be mentioned the following, located on
- Richmond avenue: That of Mr. W. D. Koelsch, costing $12,000; L. L. Groves, $7,000; Miss A. M. Bame, $10,000; Mr. G. H. Hughson,
- Summer street, $9,000; E. A. Schusler, Oak street, $18,000, etc.
These are but a few of their efforts, and it may be further stated that they possess the essential qualifications for promptly and satisfactorily meeting all requirements of their patrons. They are careful in the preparation of their drawings, give the maximum of accommodation in the arrangement of buildings, and are particular in having their work strictly conform to the specifications, and are careful to avoid extras.
Their offices Nos. 33, 34 and 35, located in the Stevens Building, 46 Niagara street.
Both partners are active and energetic, and deservedly prominent in professional and social circles.
See also: Page 135 in Historic Plymouth Avenue in the Kleinhans Neighborhood by Christopher N. Brown
A New Public
Official Visit to and inspection of the New Engine House on Jersey Street -- A Handsome and substantial structure -- A Noticeable Invention, Etc.
Source: Buffalo Daily Courier. December 15, 1875, page 2
Yesterday afternoon, upon the in visitation of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, extended to the Common Council, a number of the aldermen and city officers made a visit of inspection to the new engine house at the corner of]Jersey and Twelfth streets.
The party left the city buildings about three o'clock, with the big "Protection" wagon, driven by four horses, for a conveyance. Those along were Fire Superintendent Williams, Building Commissioner Hager, Assessor Steele, and Aldermen Ambrose, Dickey, Heimenz, Person, ]erge, Simons, Mileham, Woods, Drescher, Keenan, Zink, Nichols and Galley.
A rather chilly but otherwise pleasant ride brought them to their destination, and the first view of the new building was enough to excite the unanimous admiration, intensified when the visitors came up to inspect the interior. The house, it will be remembered, was constructed and an engine located therein to answer the want of a large and very important part of the city which had before been dangerously remote from the facilities required in case of a fire. The lot on which it stands was purchased last spring from F. H. Root, Esq., for $3,000. The contract for the construction of the house was let to Mr. Julius Schramm, the entire cost to be $10,020.
The plans were prepared by the well-known architects, Messrs. Porter & Watkins.
The building as it now stands is unquestionably the handsomest of its kind in the city, and as concerns both appearance and arrangement one of the finest in the United States. Throughout it appears to have been constructed in the most substantial and workmanlike manner. The front is handsomely adorned with sand-stone trimmings, and pressed brick has been used for all the walls except the rear.
The main room in which the steamer and hose-cart are stationed is finished off in quite an elegant manner, with high wainscoting of alternate ash and black walnut, and all the modern improvements have been introduced, such as the opening of the stall doors by an electrical contrivance, etc. The horses stand with their heads toward the apparatus and simultaneously with the sounding of the gong the doors in front of them fly open, their holders drop off, and they rush forward to their places.
The upper rooms are also very handsomely finished, and fitted up in the nicest manner, so as not only to be comfortable, but pleasant for the members of the paid department stationed there. The furniture, furnished by Messrs. Burns & Lombard, is neat and stylish, harmonizing well with the appearance of the rooms. A fine bath room, with hot and cold water, is one of the noticeably excellent features of the building.
The house has a good basement, paved with flagstones, and there is located one of Martin's patent moist air furnaces manufactured in this city by Messrs. Hauck and Garono, by which the building is warmed, and which also heats the water for the bath rooms.
The Amoskeag steamer "L. P. Dayton" is now stationed at the new house, with Mr. William Waite as engineer, and a novel and very useful invention by this gentleman attracted the close attention of the visitors. It is generally known that in the houses where steam fire engines are located, heaters are kept for the purpose of keeping the water in the boilers of the engines warm, so that time may be saved in the process of raising steam. By Mr. Waite's invention he has steam on at all times, and enough to work the machine, although it has no fire in its furnace. The heater, as we saw it, is located in the basement of the new house, and consists of an upright boiler with flues, surmounted by a copper tank and furnished with a safety valve, water gauges, etc. From this heater pipes lead up through the floor and to the engine which it furnishes with a constant supply of steam, its capacity being from twenty to twenty-five pounds. The "Dayton" had on twelve pounds as indicated by the gauge, and worked readily. By a clever automatic arrangement, the moment the steamer is driven away the valves in the supply pipe close and the damper of the heater opens. The invention is receiving highly favorable consideration, and is doubtless to come into general use.
After leaving the 'Dayton' house the officials made a flying visit to The somewhat noted Black Rock engine house, and there was probably not one who was not struck with the contrast it presented, albeit it cost the city some $2,000 more.
Description of the Building
The Buffalo Fire Department became a paid department in 1880. Prior to this time the fire protection was provided for by volunteer companies with names like Liberty, Neptune, Vigilant, etc. So this is hard to determine the location of these stations and I [Chris brown] doubt if this particular station was a volunteer company. The official records begin the next fiscal year and Engine #2 appears at its present location of the corner of Jersey and Plymouth. So one could assume that this firehouse was built around 1880-81.
At this time (1880-81) there was a single building housing one house drawn steam engine. There was no ladder at this location until some years later.
Sometime around 1885-86 this building burned down. No information can be found on this fire, but I have found reference made to the fact that in June 30, 1886 the Engine 2 house was reopened after rebuilding.
The west side continued to be built up and the need or a ladder became urgent. On July 1, 1897, Hook and Ladder #9 was put into service in its own building beside the engine on the corner of Jersey and Plymouth. At this time there were two separate buildings at this corner and the individual walls can be still seen.
There were two entrances for people to walk through and each building had separate stalls for the horses, hay mows, sleeping quarters and other services. Nothing was shared.
Sometime around the turn of the century the two buildings were joined together and the building remains basically the same today as it did then.
The land survey for both buildings dated 1897 was for a piece of land measuring 60 X 126.5, The one building occupies this same parcel today.
Starting in the basement, the foundation is of white stone, possibly limestone, the ladder side being longer than the engine side. The basements are on either side up by the original walls and are broken up by heavy lines which were coal lines before the introduction of gas furnaces. Floors were originally wood and a unique feature was a pit where the engine and ladder could worked on from the basement.
Moving up to the apparatus room, the rooms on either side of a long stairway to the sleeping quarters, where the ladder and engine are kept are fairly plain.
The fir for the equipment is tight but adequate, the ceiling is a tine embossed pattern ceiling in good repair, the walls are brick and the floor concrete, a small watch desk is located in the front of the building between the engine and the truck. This watch area contains the telegraph system and the boxes services by the two companies are located here. The stable area of the ladder company is a kitchen today and the stable area behind the engine is used for recreation.
The stairway leading to the second floor is a straight wooden stair going from the front of the building to the rear. Here are contained the sleeping quarters and bathroom facilities for the men of each company. The floors are wooden, the ceiling tin, the bathrooms are nicely done with large slabs of marble.
There are two chimneys on each side of the building and there are two brass poles on side going down to the respective apparatus room. Behind the sleeping quarters are the old hay storage areas not presently in use. There is a large sliding door on the engine side where a block and tackle was attached to a rail to hoist grain bags and bales of hay.
Moving to the third floor one travels up a winding wooden staircase to the top level. There is considerable room by the use of a mansard roof and the detail of the wood structure can easily be seen. The third floor was once used as work area and recreation space. There does not appear to be any hose drying tower.
The exterior of the building is primarily brick. There is stone ornamentation over the bay doors, and the second and third floors in front are decorated with bracketed wood fixtures. On the ground floor there are metal diamond shaped plates used to the front walls to the sides of the building. On either side of the bay doors are metal brick protectors made by the Washington Iron Works of Buffalo. The windows on the side toward Plymouth are ornamented with stone lintels.
The building has classic mansard roof with slate shingles, and the windows are dormered. In the rear of the building is a brick wall going from the back of the ladder company extending to Plymouth. There is a small section of wall running southward from the corner, and the wooden gates that connected the wall with the rear of the engine house have been removed. Originally there was a roof over the walled area of the storage of equipment.
There have been numerous alterations over the years. Some changes were the result of new innovations in fire fighting equipment. New doors were put in in the 1920's to accommodate larger apparatus. Repairs have been made to the roof on several occasions. With the loss of the horses minor changes took place to better use the space once occupied by the horses. Information on technical and architectural changes is very hard to come by.