The Parfitt Brothers designed a new firehouse that harkened to the neighborhood's Dutch past.
Editor’s note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Engine Company 253, FDNY
Address: 2425-2427 86th Street
Cross Streets: 24th and 25th avenues
Year Built: 1895-1896
Architectural Style: Dutch Renaissance Revival
Architect: Parfitt Brothers
Other works by architect: Berkeley, Grosvenor and Montague apartments in Brooklyn Heights, Truslow mansion in Crown Heights North, St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, Grace Methodist Church in Park Slope
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1998)
The story: In 1887, developer James D. Lynch approached the Benson family in New Utrecht with offers to buy their farms, which had been in the family for over 200 years. They initially were not interested, but Lynch upped the pot, and also promised to preserve the Benson family homestead, and to name his new development “Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea.” That sealed the deal, and Lynch proceeded to build a new upscale suburb along the lines of Tennis Court and the other planned suburban enclaves of Flatbush. Unfortunately, the Panic of 1893 put a severe crimp in his plans, as did resistance to investing in New Utrecht, which at the time was outside of the border of the City of Brooklyn. It was annexed in 1894, but never was as successful as had been planned. It wasn’t until 1914, when the 4th Avenue subway arrived, that the area began to pick up. Full development occurred after World War I.
Brooklyn’s fire department began as a volunteer organization, with independent fire houses in the towns and villages that made up Kings County. In 1869, with pressure from the public, as well as insurance companies, a professional firefighting department was established in Brooklyn. The effect of this bill closed many volunteer companies, but also caused new firehouses to be built or old ones repaired, and for more modern equipment to be bought. It also reduced the number of firemen to a force of only 235 men by 1880.
But Brooklyn was growing fast, and the more far-flung towns in the county, like Flatlands, New Utrecht, Flatbush and Gravesend were becoming interesting to developers, men like James Lynch. At that time, even though there was now a professional city Fire Department, the outlying agrarian areas were not well represented, if at all, and depended still on local volunteers for fire protection. In the 1890s, the city started remedying this, hiring first class architects to design firehouses for an expanding city, and allocating funds to expand the fire department, to buy modern equipment and hire more men. In 1895 alone, four new companies were organized and 18 new firehouses were built or under construction.