Historic FDNY buildings in the Bronx designated as NYC landmarks

June 13, 2023

Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, Bronx Central Office; Photo courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday designated two Bronx buildings associated with New York City’s fire department as individual landmarks. Not only are the Engine Company 88/ Ladder Company 38 firehouse in Belmont and the Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, Bronx Central Office in West Farms architecturally significant, but they represent a period of evolution and growth for the city’s fire department. The new landmarks also recognize a piece of Bronx history that has largely gone underappreciated.

Photo courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

Designed in 1908 by Henry Beaumont Herts and Hugh Tallant, architects known for designing Broadway theaters, the Engine Company 88, Ladder 38 firehouse features Prairie-style architectural elements, like deeply set windows, a corbeled limestone window enframement, and decorative brickwork. According to the LPC, the building is the only known example of a Prairie style-influenced firehouse.

The construction of the firehouse followed the consolidation of the five boroughs, which required a more “professionalized firefighting force,” according to the agency. The original design included living quarters on the second and third quarters and horse facilities on the ground floor.

At the turn of the century, a surge in population in the Belmont neighborhood, and citywide, led to the construction of many new firehouses that featured more advanced technology. According to the LPC’s research department, the firehouse was built during this transition period, since it was able to accommodate both horses and new mechanized equipment.

Plus, the building was completed just before the city adopted the standardized Model Fire House Plan in 1910, making it a unique and architecturally distinct FDNY building.

Located at 1129 East 180th Street, the Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, Bronx Central Office is one of four buildings constructed in the early 20th century as the FDNY decentralized operations and developed a new fire detection system. The department used a telegraph system with public alarm boxes connected to a central office that then relayed signals to firefighters.

The Bronx structure was designed in 1915 by notable Brooklyn architect Frank J. Helmle, who worked with the firm McKim, Mead & White and designed the landmarked Prospect Park Boathouse and the Brooklyn Central Office, Bureau of Communications, the sister building of the new landmark.

The striking T-shaped Renaissance Revival-style building features an exterior of light brick with a hipped roof made of Spanish tiles. According to LPC, the building has retained its original design and continues “to play an important role as part of the FDNY’s communications system.”

“Engine Company 88/Ladder Company 38 is celebrating 115 years of service to the Belmont section of the Bronx. Coupled with the Bronx Communications Office, with over 90 years of FDNY communications, both locations provide the infrastructure for the Bronx response,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.

“With these landmark designations, residents will continue to receive crucial emergency services in the Bronx.”

In addition to the two FDNY buildings, the LPC on Tuesday also designated the Bronx Opera House as an individual landmark, citing its significance as a social gathering spot for Latino culture and specifically, the area’s Puerto Rican community.

“These historic buildings tell the story of a time of transition and reinvention for both the Bronx and New York City as a whole, and reflect the Commission’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that designations reflect the rich heritage of every borough,” LPC Chair Sarah Carroll said.


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