10 Historic Firehouses Across America

Parque de Bombas, Ponce, Puerto Rico


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Parque de Bombas, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Blazed a Trail

Aside from being indispensable to their communities, firehouses hold plenty of charm, nostalgia, and civic pride. Many fire stations have a rich past, continuing to serve today as historic landmarks, architectural wonders, and tourist attractions, since many are converted into museums, restaurants, and breweries, retail spaces, and even homes. From Main Street USA to the biggest of cities, we've researched some of the most historic firehouses to visit that preserve and celebrate the remarkable heritage of American fire services.

Fire Museum of Memphis (Fire Engine House No. 1), Memphis, Tennessee

Fire Museum of Memphis (Fire Engine House No. 1)

Memphis, Tennessee
The Fire Museum of Memphis — the city's "hottest attraction," goes the quip — is downtown in the restored 1910 Fire Engine House No. 1, with exhibits about Memphis' most devastating fires, early African American firefighters, and beautifully restored historic fire equipment such as the originally horse-drawn 1897 Hale Water Tower, a 1910 horse-drawn steam fire engine, and a 1912 American-LaFrance pumper. The museum's famous Fire Room simulates what it looks and feels like to be in a burning house, and an Escape Maze tests kids' ability to find a route out of a burning house.
Visit: 118 Adams Ave., 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Hook & Ladder Co. 8, New York

Hook & Ladder Co. 8

New York
Built in 1903, the Beaux-Arts style firehouse Hook & Ladder 8 is recognizable immediately to movie fans as the exterior setting for the headquarters in the "Ghostbusters" films. The pop culture landmark, which sits at Varick and North Moore streets, is a working firehouse (its firefighters were among the first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center), so visitors aren't allowed inside. But you might catch a glimpse of the Ghostbusters sign that hangs inside.
Visit: 14 N. Moore St.

Related: 55 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Fireman's Hall Museum, Philadelphia

Fireman's Hall Museum

Did you know that the first volunteer fire service brigade was started by Benjamin Franklin in pre-industrial Philadelphia? At Fireman's Hall Museum — one of the oldest fire museums in the country — you can tap into that fascinating history. The museum is housed in a restored 1902 firehouse nestled in the narrow streets of Philadelphia's historic district, not far from other historic stations that have been converted into artist collectives, bars and restaurants, and private homes. One striking structure built in 1894 has been empty since 2006.
Visit: 147 N. Second St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and until 9 p.m. the first Friday of each month

'The Cave': Lexington Fire Station No. 16, Lexington, Kentucky
Google Maps

'The Cave': Lexington Fire Station No. 16

Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington's most widely recognized and unconventional firehouse, Fire Station 16, is known as "The Cave." The unique station, which opened in 1983, appears to be built into an existing hillside, though it is actually "a concrete dome covered by the earth" to form a natural-looking hill, according to the city. The design allows the firehouse to blend in with the landscape and incorporates energy-efficient features that lets it sustain a steady temperature even if the power goes out.
Visit: 3700 Man O' War Blvd.

Creede Volunteer Fire Department
Creede Volunteer Fire Department by sea turtle (CC BY)

Creede Fire Station

Creede, Colorado
Now here's a cave: The fire station in this old mining town is also known as the "Underground Firehouse" because when the volunteer fire department didn't have money to buy land and build a firehouse, in the early 1980s local mining companies donated explosives and worker time to build one into the side of a mountain. Each firetruck in the world's only underground firehouse is burrowed away in its own stall carved out of solid rock; these tunnels are arranged like an inverted tree to make getting them out easier. The underground firehouse is still an active fire department (though it also displays vintage equipment) that is open to the public only on some days. It's next door to a mining museum that's also worth a visit.
Visit: 503 W. Willow Creek Road

Parque de Bombas, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Parque de Bombas

Ponce, Puerto Rico
One of Puerto Rico's most iconic landmarks is Parque de Bombas, the city of Ponce's first firehouse and now a firefighting museum in the Plaza Las Delicias town square. A blend of Gothic and Moorish architecture, the brightly colored, red- and black-striped wood building was originally the main exhibit pavilion for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair. It wasn't until 1885 that it became the island's first official fire station. After closing in 1990 it was converted into a small, free museum dedicated to heroic firefighters, including those who fought the massive 1883 blaze that threatened to engulf the city at a time Puerto Rico didn't have a permanent firefighting force.
Visit: Plaza de las Delicias, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday

Related: 30 Things You Didn't Know About Puerto Rico

African American Firefighter Museum, Los Angeles
Cheri A./Yelp

African American Firefighter Museum

Los Angeles
Built in 1913, Fire Station No. 30, Engine Company No. 30, was the first of two all-black Los Angeles Fire Department stations. Remaining segregated until 1956, the Prairie School-style fire station and engine company closed in 1980 and is now the African American Firefighter Museum, the only free-standing museum dedicated to black firefighters in the United States. In addition to housing vintage equipment and apparatus, the museum has exhibits providing insight into a history going back to Sam Haskins — hired as the first L.A. firefighter of African descent in 1892 and killed battling a blaze three years later — as well as the social and racial climate of the fire service in the early days, showing how much the profession has evolved.
Visit: 1401 S. Central Ave., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday

Related: The Best of California For Budget Vacations

San Antonio Fire Museum, San Antonio

San Antonio Fire Museum

San Antonio
The San Antonio Fire Museum started in 1997 as a small collection of artifacts owned by firefighters, but has expanded dramatically — and now is touted by publicists as one of Texas' most popular tourist attractions. (It probably doesn't hurt that it's across the street from the Alamo.) Housed in the historic Central Fire Headquarters and Fire Station No. 1, the museum includes a fully restored 1927 LaFrance engine and other antique firetrucks, offering a glimpse into an era when volunteers used hand-operated water pumpers and heavy leather hoses to battle fires. Retired city firefighters lead tours, and kids can climb on a 1953 International firetruck dressed in child-size firefighting gear.
Visit: 801 E. Houston St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Related: San Antonio Is One of the Most Overlooked Travel Cities in the U.S.

Old Plaza Firehouse, Los Angeles
Cassandra Y./yelp

Old Plaza Firehouse

Los Angeles
The oldest fire station in Los Angeles, the Old Plaza Firehouse was built in 1884 with what was then cutting-edge technology: A turntable in the floor that avoided the need for horses pulling the fire wagon to back in or out. It operated as a firehouse until 1897, later serving uses ranging from a saloon to a flophouse. Eventually, it was named a California Historical Landmark and renovated for use as the free Plaza Firehouse Museum. As part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic District, it features helmets, photos, and firefighting equipment of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an original horse-drawn fire engine.
Visit: 501 N. Los Angeles St., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday

Cincinnati Fire Museum, Cincinnati

Cincinnati Fire Museum

America's first paid, professional fire department started out of Cincinnati in 1853. The Cincinnati Fire Museum, downtown in the former home of Engine Company 45, has chronicled many of the city's contributions to fire service. The museum provides fire-safety education for all ages in its "Safe House" — an interactive exhibit that teaches families what to do in case of a fire emergency at home — but also vintage equipment and several preserved vehicles, including fire engines dating back to 1816.
Visit: 315 W. Court St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday