Certain building typologies, by their civic nature, are required to have a strong presence on the streetscape, a presence commanding attention and exuding authority. Buildings such as fire houses need to be distinct from their surroundings in order for them to be easily identifiable and responsive.
The Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters is no exception. In fact, given the newer built fabric that surrounds this 1892 masterpiece, the building holds an even more powerful presence on Jay Street. The surrounding structures appear flimsy, temporary in contrast to the strong masonry and terracotta fortress that is the firehouse. Designed by Frank Freeman, in the Romanesque Revival style, the scale of this building is magnified by its materiality, composition and ornamentation. The thin, densely packed, gold roman bricks that form the corner and central pilasters give the building weight, while the red sandstone and granite base ground the building at a pedestrian level. The rich, terracotta ornamented archway forms a grand gateway, the departure point of many a fire response. While the tower, with miniature turrets at its corners, not only once served as a look out point for fire fighters but made the building a beacon of strength and stability in the area.
The building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966. Unfortunately it is no longer used as a firehouse. The ground floor, behind the arched entrance, is now home to a community church, while the curtains in the windows above illustrate the buildings new use as an apartment house. At over 120 years of age, this building is a monument, a powerful tribute to the fire fighters who kept Brooklyn safe; a symbol of strength, commitment and dedication; a masterpiece of the late 19th century whose old age has only increased its magnificence.
Architect: Frank Freeman
Location: 365-367 Jay Street, Brooklyn
Dolkart, Andrew, and Matthew A. Postal. Guide to New York City Landmarks. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. Page 238.