Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 25, 2018

Streamline Moderne Fire Station: Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles

A recent visit to the oldest suburb in Los Angeles, Lincoln Heights, previously yielded two blog posts, one featuring the 1916 Lincoln Heights Carnegie Library, and a second about the massive Art Deco Los Angeles/USC Medical Building, 1933. Now a third.

Organized firefighting in the city of Los Angeles began in 1871, and the city formed its first paid fire department in 1886. The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) is either the third or fourth (depending on the source) busiest fire department in the United States, after New York City, Chicago and sometimes Houston. Both the skills of the approximately 3,600 employees and the equipment they use span a wide variety of disciplines. There are innumerable types of fire trucks, ambulances, helicopters and even five fire boats based in the Port of Los Angeles, including the massive Fire Boat 2:

LAFD Fire Boat 2 Brad Nixon 1273 (571x640)

I wrote about Fire Boat 2 at this link.

As the city expanded into the surrounding area, so did the LAFD. In 1940, it established a fire company to serve Lincoln Heights, on the eastern border of downtown, and built a new station, constructed by the federal Works Progress Administration.

Lincoln Hts Firehouse Brad Nixon 1449 sm

The station houses Engine Company Number One. That number is deceptive. It’s not the first or oldest company in Los Angeles. LAFD “backfills” gaps in the numbering of fire companies, and apparently a preexisting Company #1 had been decommissioned, so the Lincoln Heights company became Company One.

Lincoln Hts Firehouse Brad Nixon 1457 sm

The building’s an excellent example of PWA Moderne, with the horizontal fins accenting the entrance doorway and trimming the canopy above the truck bays. It’s Streamline Moderne at its best, enlivening an otherwise purely functional structure.

Lincoln Hts Firehouse Brad Nixon 1455 sm

The station is staffed around the clock. During their shifts, between alarms or upkeep work on equipment (always ongoing), the firefighters live and sleep upstairs. Yes! They do, in fact, slide down a fire pole a distance of about 12 feet when there’s an alarm. I have an excuse — if flimsy — for not shooting the pole while I was standing close enough to touch it. I was listening to two of the firemen as they enthusiastically described the history and lore of the building, the LAFD and Engine Company One. They were in the midst of preparations for a formal inspection by the Los Angeles Fire Chief when The Counselor and I showed up to see the place, and they were gracious with their time in sharing what they knew in a manner that conveyed their pride in being part of a professional team of firefighters.

Firehouse Chow!

Yes, they assured us, firemen maintain the tradition of rotating the duties of cooking for the shift on duty, and meals at the station house are always taken together, part of a longstanding LAFD tradition. They say it’s pretty good cooking, too.

Adaptation

The two firefighters we spoke to pointed out that the original garage doors of the building were recessed beneath the projecting building canopy. Their largest engine — about 53 feet long — now no longer fits behind them, so the doors have been moved to the front of the canopy. In the following photo, you can see the front of the truck projecting slightly past the white wall to the left, the original location of the doors.

Lincoln Hts Firehouse Brad Nixon 1450 sm

Other than that, the building’s relatively intact, a stylish survivor from the reign of Art Deco.

The bronze plaques on the face of the building describe the building’s WPA origin, pay tribute to a longtime firefighter on the force, and memorialize members of Engine Company 1 who died in the line of duty. A sobering thought on a sunny spring day. Fighting fires is as serious a job as any you can name.

LAFD Engine Company 1 is located at 2230 Pasadena Avenue, Los Angeles, California.

Remember when you see those red lights behind you, pull over!

Note that the LAFD is the fire department of the city of Los Angeles. The city is within the County of Los Angeles, which maintains its own Los Angeles County Fire Department to serve 59 surrounding cities and unincorporated areas with more than 4 million residents.

Some of the photographs in this post and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018. With appreciation to the firemen of Company One for their time and more information than I could put in a single post.


Responses

  1. Cute!!

    Like

  2. You have done it again! This is the first time I have read about a fire station. And you topped it off with interviews of the firemen. Extraordinary.

    Like

    • Thanks. A lucky day. Went to see a building, ended up talking to two engaging and lively men about work they care about with a passion.

      Like

  3. Great! Thanks, Brad!

    Like

  4. So interesting. Great job on covering a very broad topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I fell in love with Streamline Moderne design not through buildings, but through railroading. You probably know that one of the most famous of the streamliner trains was the California Zephyr. Now, if only someone would design a Streamline Moderne fire engine to complement the building.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, those locomotive engines by Bel Geddes and Loewy are the ne plus ultra, the res ipsa loquitur or whatever you call them of streamline design. Why shouldn’t there be a fire engine? I immediately went looking. Some trucks from that era are in the ballpark, but the category must’ve escaped the attention of the designers. A shame. Great idea!

      Like


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