Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: FDNY Engine 226, built as Engine Company 26 of the Brooklyn Fire Department
Address: 409 State Street
Cross Streets: Nevins and Bond Streets
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill
Year Built: 1889
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
The story: Engine Company 26 of the Brooklyn Fire Department was established in January of 1889, and was given this fine new home on State Street, between Bond and Nevins Street. The station would be responsible for fires within Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill and parts of Carroll Gardens. The house was equipped with the latest equipment of the day, which was a four wheeled wagon with a powerful Amoskeag engine and hose, drawn by four horses.
There were many important buildings in their territory, including Long Island College Hospital, all of the stores in the shopping district, Packer Institute, Polytechnic Institute, the court houses and City Hall, and several other schools, asylums and orphanages, and other civic, commercial and private buildings. They were also responsible for the huge grain elevators on the shores of the Erie Basin. During the company’s earliest years, they were involved with the fire that destroyed the Talmadge Temple for the second time, the fire at Hyde & Behman’s Theater, the burning of the first Smith-Gray Building, and much more.
In 1898, when NYC consolidated, the number of the company changed to Engine 26, FDNY. It later changed again in 1899, as the city rearranged all of the numbers in the new consolidated fire department. All of the old Brooklyn numbers were changed, and this became Engine 126. Later, in 1913, the last reassignments of numbers made this station Engine Company 226, which it has remained ever since.
With all of the important buildings in the area, this engine company was busy and on constant alert. On the night of December 26, 1902, the engine responded to a call about a fire at the Arbuckle Cooperage, at 214 Plymouth Street, in what is now Dumbo. Three firefighters lost their lives when a wall of the building collapsed on them. The cooperage made barrels, and was surrounded by other factories including those that manufactured paint, a cork factory, a brewery and a machine shop, all of which had flammable materials and could have easily also caught fire and exploded. Two of the men were from other firehouses, but Engine 26 lost Lt. William Jeffrey, who was crushed in the collapse.
According to an “old-timer” writing to the Brooklyn Eagle in 1943, Engine 226 had a Dalmatian named Spot for many years when the engines were still pulled by horses. When the weather was nice and the engine was called out, Spot would run ahead of the horses, barking at them to go faster. He would also run far ahead of them and bark at other carriages and wagons, to tell them to get out of the way. However, in the winter, when the streets were snowy, Spot would sit in the tender, and do his barking from the comfort of the front seat. Sadly, one day he didn’t get out of the way of the firehouse horses in time when they were on a run, and he was killed. The men got another dog, but he just wasn’t Spot.
The fire house is just across the street from the house at 420 State Street that was destroyed in a gas explosion in 2000. The explosion in the basement collapsed the house and killed three people; Leonard and Harriet Walit, who owned the house, and their neighbor, Khay Cochran, who was visiting. The fire house’s immediate response unfortunately, was too late. The blast was so powerful it extinguished the fire started by the leak.
Like many Brooklyn firehouses, the men of Engine 226 responded to the World Trade Center terrorist attack on 9-11. They lost
three four men in the disaster: Lt. Bob Wallace, Firefighter Stan Smagala, Firefighter Brian McAleese and Firefighter David Paul DeRubbio. The community responded with flowers and other tributes at a memorial set up outside of the station. This firehouse is a popular one for tourists, and has been mentioned in guide books, the AIA Guide to NYC, and fire department chat rooms. It’s certainly not the largest or fanciest firehouse in Brooklyn, but it has a proud history of bravery and sacrifice. (My apologies to the DeRubbio’s for not including David Paul DeRubbio in my initial article. My source material was incomplete.)
(Photograph: Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark)