Brooklyn structure: Windsor Terrace’s 1896 Firehouse
Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in 2012 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.
Between 1894 and 1897, Peter J. Lauritzen designed eight “engine and truck” houses for the Brooklyn Fire Department. Five of them still exist, including this one at 1309 Prospect Avenue in Windsor Terrace, and are among the best fire stations in town.
Lauritzen was one of the most important architects in the city of Brooklyn, a man with a reputation for building excellence. During his career in Brooklyn, he designed the homes and clubs of some of the city’s richest cities, as well as the headquarters for the fire service companies tasked with protecting these assets.
What was then known as Engine 40 was established as the only fire station in Windsor Terrace in 1888 and was then considered part of the Greater Flatbush area. The village of Windsor Terrace was once part of John Vanderbilt Farm and became part of Flatbush in 1851.
Flatbush was annexed to the city of Brooklyn in 1894, and this Romanesque fire station at 1309 Prospect Avenue was built for Engine Company 40 in 1896.
Lauritzen’s fire stations are all unique and beautiful, and were built from his favorite materials: Indiana limestone, gray brick, and Wyoming bluestone. He was very fond of towers and towers and put them on several of his fire stations.
Technically, this is a bay window as it is suspended and once had a conical roof. Many of his fire stations also have intricately carved ornaments; This one has acanthus leaves at the base of the bay window. It also once had “Brooklyn Fire Dept.” carved in deep relief over the doors.
Fortunately for the firefighters of the time, Lauritzen’s buildings also offered some new modern conveniences that no modern firefighter could imagine living and working without: indoor plumbing and hot running water. Previously, men had to take a cold bath after a fire, which often led to colds. Given the amount of time firefighters worked six days a week and worked 24 hours a day, the last thing they needed was a cold.
Originally there was a steam fire engine, a hose trolley and a ladder truck on the first floor of the building. In the stables behind this equipment were the company’s six horses. Behind the stables was a room where the equipment, feed and supplies for the horses were kept. The bay tower on the left contained an elevated monitoring station, and on the right side of the building were the hose racks that held 700 feet of hose.
On the second floor of the station there was a living room and the engineer’s room at the front, a dormitory for 12 people and rooms for the foreman, the foreman assistant and the bathroom at the back. It was expected that the men who were all there would go home to eat or bring them with them.
In 1898, Brooklyn became part of the greater New York City area, and the Brooklyn Fire Department was officially disbanded and incorporated into FDNY. In 1899 the engine name was changed to 140 as there was an engine 40 in Manhattan, and in 1913 it became engine 240.
The horses were replaced by a new motor vehicle engine in 1921. Soon after, the original stable doors, which were too narrow for the fire engines, were changed, and the fire station lost its tower roof and the house’s original lettering. The old turning and feeding room was converted into a kitchen for the men.
The Windsor Terrace Fire Station has been operating continuously since its completion and continues to serve the community. In 2013 it was designated as an individual landmark together with the former Engine Company 28 in Sunset Park.
[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]
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