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Plaza Fire House Museum
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National Parks Under Attack
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Los Angeles County Main Page

Plaza Fire House Museum

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2017 - 2017.

The Plaza Firehouse is the oldest firehouse in Los Angeles, built in 1884. Prior to 1869, Los Angeles had no fire department of fire fighting equipment in a town built mostly of adobe and brick. In 1869, a volunteer fire department was formed and the City established a Counsel Committee of Fire and Water which contracted with the Water Company to install hydrants. Two years later a Fire Department was formed with volunteer fire fighters and in 1872 the Council purchased an Amoskeag steam fire engine and a hose cart. George P. McCain was the first paid employee. A new volunteer company was formed in 1874 after the original resigned because the council wouldn't buy horses to pull the engine. This new group of 38 was called the "Volunteer 38s" and their foreman, Charles E. Miles persuaded the Council to buy a ladder truck and the next year, a pair of horses. A second volunteer company, "Confidence Number 2," was formed and the two would compete to see which would arrive at a fire first. Charles Miles became the first Chief Engineer about 1876.

Walter S. Moore became Chief Engineer and later (1882) was elected to the City Council where he later convince the Council of the need for a new firehouse to be built on the Plaza. The Plaza Firehouse was the first building constructed by the City of Los Angeles for the purpose of housing fire fighting equipment and personnel. The structure was designed by William Boring and built by Dennis Hennessy. Construction began in May of 1884, completed in mid-August, and it began operations in September of the same year as Firehouse #1. The personnel housed here were the 38s. In December of 1885 the first paid Fire Department was established with Moore as Chief. A new engine company, "Walter S. Moore Company #4," was replaced the 38s. The new crew began service on February 1, 1886.

The design was common with houses stabled toward the rear of the station with the wagon in front. The men lived upstairs. Following an alarm, the men would slide down a pole, a chain would drop and the horses would move forward to be hitched to the wagon with harnesses that would drop on their backs from above. After returning, a turn table on the floor allowed the wagon to be driven in and turned forward to face the door. A hayloft above the stales made feeding easy. An alarm box connected to alarm buttons all over town would alert them to the location of the fire.

Eventually ownership of the property on which the firehouse was built was disputed and the firehouse passed to Mrs. L. M. Bigelow and Griffin Johnson who offered to rent it to the city for a high price which was declined. A year later, a five year lease at a more reasonable price was negotiated and Chemical Company Number 1 moved into the firehouse in October 1892. The way the chemical engine worked was at the scene of the fire, sulfuric acid and added to two cylinders holding fifty gallons of water and bicarbonate of soda. The result was carbon dioxide under pressure which would pump the water. The lease was not renewed in 1897 and the building changed use.

The original China Town had developed around the building. Over the next sixty years, the building was used as a saloon, boarding house, cigar store, poolroom, a house of ill repute, vegetable market, and drug store. The State of California and the City and County of Los Angeles established El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park in 1953 and purchased the firehouse on December 5, 1954. The State Division of Architecture restored the building (the first Plaza building to be restored) which reopened on October 1, 1960 as a museum. The building was dedicated as California Historical Landmark Number 730.

The firehouse is located at the south corner of the Plaza at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument just east of Down Town between North Los Angeles and North Main Streets and Arcadia Street and Cesar E Chavez Avenue. There is no official address, but you can use the address for the entire park (office a few steps from the Firehouse) which is:

125 Paseo de la Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Information 213-628-1274 or 213-485-8437
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 AM-3:00 PM
Free admission
Firehouse. Photo date: 9-4-04.
Firehouse. Photo date: 7-5-03.
Firehouse. Photo date: 7-5-03.
Firehouse. Photo date: 7-5-03.
Firehouse Museum.

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This page last updated: Tuesday, 20-Jun-2017 09:52:21 EDT

Note:This is not the official site for any of the places shown in Places Earth. Places Earth is not responsible for accuracy of the information. Hours of operations, prices, exhibits, and sometimes locations are subject to change without notice.

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