An aerial view of Brookline's firehouse
taken in December 2014. The iconic building is now over 100 years old.
The Brookline Firehouse is one of the
oldest standing engine houses in the City of Pittsburgh. Known for many years
as Engine House #57, the Brookline fire station now carries the Pittsburgh Bureau
of Fire designation of Truck Company #26. As of December 2017,
it was one of thirty active stations located througout the city.
This historic neighborhood landmark has
stood for over 100 years. and its dedicated crews of skilled firefighters have built
quite a legacy of working hard to protect the lives and property of Brookline
The Brookline Firehouse in May 2011.
The building, with it's tall tower, is a community historic landmark.
The Long Road To The Official
The process of constructing Brookline's
Engine House #57, located at the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and
Castlegate Avenue, began on July 1, 1908, seven months after Brookline was
annexed into the City of Pittsburgh. Thomas W. Boyd and Company was awarded
the construction contract from the Board of Public Safety at a cost of
By February 6, 1909 the building was
nearing completion and touted in the Pittsburgh Press as one of the "neatest,
most attractive and most modern of the kind in the country. Four months later,
in June 1909, Freehold Real Estate announced that the engine house would be
opened the following month.
For some reason, it wasn't until March 18,
1910, that the Brookline engine house was again in the news. On that date the City
Budget Director John Morin announced that several new stations, including
Brookline, were finally getting the apparatus, equipment and crews necessary to
become operational. In Brookline, this equipment was soon to be
The Brookline Firehouse, shown in early-1909,
still in the process of interior construction.
Several months later, on December, 28, 1910,
the Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that the home of S.C. Addis, at Edgebrook and
Bellaire Avenues, was destroyed by fire. Residents were enraged that the Brookline
firehouse, which had been sitting idle for almost two years, was still not
It took another six months for the city to
bring the firehouse to operational status. A concrete plaque was laid into the
Engine House wall noting that it was built in 1910. Despite this, Engine House #57 was not officially dedicated until June 23,
After a long two year wait, Brookline
residents were overwhelmed with joy and breathed a sigh of relief that their homes
and property were now under the watchful care of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire's
latest neighborhood firehouse.
The Early Years And The
Gamewell Alarm System
Aside from the rigors of firefighting,
the crews that manned the station in the early years had quite a lot to do while
awaiting the next call to duty. At the dawn of the 20th century, the Pittsburgh
Bureau of Fire utilized an alarm network called the Gamewell System.
Brookline's first firefighters with their
horse-drawn combination chemical and hose wagon in 1911.
Sitting to the left in front is Captain Frank McGeary.
Gamewell was first installed in the 1860s
and the system expanded as the city grew. The network connected red fire alarm
boxes around the city with the Pittsburgh headquarters. The alerts were also
sent to all of the city's neighborhood stations.
Prior to 1916, there was only one shift
of firefighters working the station. On July 10 of that year, an entire second
shift was hired. This dropped the work week from almost continuous duty to just
eighty-four hours a week.
The crew of Engine House #57 in 1920.
In the photo are Captain Jonathan Martin,
Hosemen Harry Grimm and Andrew Dalzell.
There was a duty officer assigned to watch
at all times. Their job was to sit at the watch desk on the apparatus floor
and listen to the Gamewell System's gong alarms. Additional high-priority
telephone alarms were transmitted over the city house line from
The person on watch also had to greet
anyone coming into the station. At night he had to manually hit the big gong
if a telephone alarm came in from headquarters, and turn on the lights. Standard
gong alarms were also entered into the log book, no matter which company the
alert was for.
A Gamewell Firehouse Gong and a
Fire Alarm Box.
There were prearranged responses for six
alarms, with companies moving up to fill in vacant stations on each alarm. It
was an important job to be on watch, and if you dozed off or wandered away your
company could miss a fire.
The Gamewell alarm system was eventually
replaced with a network of mechanical call boxes located on telephone poles along
city streets. These red boxes remained in place until the 1980s when they were
replaced with the "911" emergency telephone system.
Brookline's Engine House #57 in
The Hose Tower
One of the striking features of the
Brookline firehouse is the hose tower. Some may think that this was a lookout
to spot fires in the neighborhood, but it's intended purpose was for hanging
the hoses to dry after being used.
Brookline Boulevard in 1924. The firehouse,
with it's tall hose tower, stands at the intersection with Castlegate Avenue.
A crew member would ascend a stairway to
the top of the tower. The hoses were hoisted up with a rope and pulley. The wet
hoses were then hung on pegs to dry. It was important to hang-dry the early
cotton hoses after each use to prevent mildew from forming. Once completely dry,
the hoses were repacked on the truck.
Take A Trip Up The Firehouse Tower - 2011
The narrow stairway leading to the top
of the tower (left); The pulley for raising
the hoses and the pegs where they were hung to dry.
Engine House #57 Rosters -
1927 and 1939
The crew of Brookline's Engine House #57
in 1927 consisted of:
Captain Charles Park Kenner, Captain Al Ott, Pumpman George Feldman, Pumper John
Heinz, Fred Bauer, William S Fowler, Harry Grimm, Charles F. McCall, Phillip
McInerny, John Shuster, Charles J Smith, and George M. Stehle.
The crew of Brookline's Engine House #57
in 1939 consisted of:
A Shift: Captain John Lauderbaugh, Pumpman James McKinley, George Shisler,
William Metz, Harry Platt, Walter Posner and Fred Motzcka.
B shift: Captain J Cunningham, Pumpman Edward Kennelley, Henry LeJune,
Patrick Bonodio, Robert Mutzel, John Moran, Joseph Keating and David
* Note: The Pumpman was the pumper driver and operator.
Wagons, Pumpers and Ladder
Back in 1911, if a call to action was
received, the company would respond with their horse-drawn
combination chemical and hose wagon. Motorized transportation arrived in 1921 with a
1914 model chemical and hose car built by American La France.
Since that time the station has witnessed
a steady progression of fire crews and trucks. On January 25, 1927, a 750 gallon
per minute American La France pumper replaced the motorized chemical and hose car. The horse-drawn combination
wagon was also retired.
This 1929 photo shows the American La France
750 GPM pumper truck that arrived on January 25, 1927.
The original pumper truck was replaced on
July 5, 1951 with a new 750 GPM American La France model. This truck was in turn replaced in 1973 with a 1250 GPM Mack
The first ladder truck in Brookline
arrived on March 16, 1934. It was a 1927 American La France model that was
transferred from Engine House #10.
On January 14, 1949, the aging 1927 vehicle
was replaced with another truck assembled at the city's Reo shop. The 1949
truck was in turn replaced
on April 30, 1965, with a new American La France model equipped with an 85-foot ladder.
Brookline's Engine House #57 in
1952, showing the 1951 model
pumper and the 1949 model ladder truck.
Over the next forty-plus years, this
steady progression of upgraded pumper and ladder trucks has continued as
more modern and efficient vehicles have been introduced.
In December 2014, Brookline's Truck
Company #26 was equipped with a model 2005 HME/Toyne 1500 GPM/500 gallon
pumper truck and a model 2008 Pierce Arrow XT 100-foot Rear-Mount Aerial
Trucks And Crew
Of Engine House #57 in 1970
Brookline's Engine House
#57 in 1970. The station was equipped with the 1951 American La France pumper
(left) and the 1965 American La France ladder truck.
Below are pictures of the twenty-one
member Brookline firefighting crew that year. The complement included three
Captains, three Lieutenants and fifteen hosemen.
Some of these men were still assigned
to the Brookline station on May 31, 1973, when a major blaze engulfed four buildings on the 900 block of Brookline Boulevard.
Six firemen were hospitalized in what was perhaps the largest single fire
to ever occur in Brookline.
Firefighters use elevated platform as they
battle a fire that swept through a row of buildings on May 31, 1973.
Fighting a three-alarm fire in 2005
at 704 Brookline Boulevard.
Over the past century, Brookline's engine
house has remained a constant, silent guardian that quietly stands watch over the
neighborhood. Then, at a moment's notice, the station roars to life whenever there
is a report of fire or injury.
Today's highly-skilled crews not only
respond in case of fire, but they also act as a first response team whenever
the city's Emergency Medical Services are needed.
Crew members of Truck Company #26 in 2000.
The quick response of these trained
individuals have stabilized many medical emergencies before the Pittsburgh
paramedics arrive at the seen. During a fire, their professionalism and
attention to detail saves lives. These brave and talented individuals truly
are the "Angels On Our Shoulders."
Crew members of Truck Company #26 in 2008.
Brookline Firehouse Photo
Below are links to some photos of the
firehouse over the years showing the progression of firefighters and trucks
that have become such a familiar site on Brookline Boulevard.
The Brookline Firehouse - 1909
Construction Plaque - 1910
Brookline Firehouse and Crew - 1911
Brookline Firehouse and Crew - 1920
Brookline's Pumper Truck - 1929
Brookline's Ladder Truck - 1949
Brookline's Pumper Truck - 1951
The Brookline Firehouse - 1952
Fire On Brookline Boulevard - 1963
Brookline's Ladder Truck - 1965
Brookline Firehouse and Crew - 1970
Fire On Brookline Boulevard - 1973
The Brookline Firehouse - 1998
The Firehouse Tower - 2011
Season's Greetings - 2012
Fire On Shawhan Avenue - 2014
Honorary Battalion Chief George Gilfoyle
Firehouse Renovations - 2014/2017
The Twin Towers
Brookline's Truck Company #26
The Brookline community sends it's
heartfelt thanks to the local firefighting crews who, time and time again,
have put their own personal safety on the line to help preserve the lives and
homes of our fellow neighbors.
Brookline's Truck Company #26 responds
to a fire at 954 Brookline Boulevard on April 11, 2014.
As of 2008, there were more than twenty
other engine houses in the city of Pittsburgh older than the Brookline
station. Six of these were still in use and the others were either empty or
had been sold to private individuals for other uses. Thanks to Edward Ross for
providing historical information on the Pittsburgh Firefighters.
- December 2012
The Brookline firehouse in 2012 during a
December snowstorm (left) and on a clear Christmas evening.
These pictures would have made nice Brookline Season's Greetings
Brookline's Firehouse decorated in Christmas Lighting
- Shawn Campbell Photo 2016.
Fire On Shawhan
Avenue - May 2014
On May 30, 2014, Brookline's Truck
Company #26 responded to a fire on Shawhan Avenue. The fire was contained
and no injuries were reported. The century old home was preserved with
limited damages. The following photos and video link show
Brookline's firefighters doing what they do best, protecting our lives
and our property. They are the best!
View Video Of The Shawhan Avenue Fire -
May 30, 2014
Waiting For The Next
Call To Action
The Truck Company #26 crew, shown
on July 23, 2014, stand ready to respond to an emergency at a
The firefighters of Brookline's Engine
Company #26 enjoy some downtime on July 23, 2014. They never know when the next
"Call To Action" will come. Whenever that call comes, these hardy souls will be
ready to roll.
It's a proud tradition that began over
100 years ago, when the trusted crews of yesteryear hooked up the draft horses
and galloped off towards the rising smoke on the horizon.
Brookline's firefighters with their
horse-drawn combination chemical and hose wagon in 1920.
Chief - Brother George
No history of the Brookline Engine
House would be complete without mentioning Brookline's most beloved honorary
fireman, George Gilfoyle. For several decades, since the age of ten,
Brother George has been a mainstay at the station. For his many years of
volunteer service he was awarded the title Honorary Battalion Chief in
Back in the days when the red Gamewell
pull boxes were located on telephone poles around the neighborhood, George
would make his daily rounds checking each and every one to ensure they were
in working condition. He radioed in to the station and tested each box. In
the event of a fire, George would take off running, oftentimes being the
first at the scene.
George and friends at the Brookline
firehouse in 1998.
Advancing years have slowed George's
travels. He took leave of his duties in the early-2000s and went into
semi-retirement to care for his family at home. However, from time-to-time
Brother George can still be found keeping watch over his favorite place, and
his second home, the Brookline Engine House.
Brother George visiting the Engine House
in September 2014.
On August 8, 2015, George Gilfoyle, perhaps
the most loyal fireman in the long history of the Brookline Community, received an
honor that has never before been bestowed on a living individual in the annals of the
City of Pittsburgh and the Bureau of Fire. An bronze plaque was placed near the front
of the garage honoring George's lifelong committment to public safety and his years
of dedication to the Engine House.
The initiative to fund and erect the commemorative
plaque, that includes a smiling image of George, was led by Brookline resident Doug
Brendel. Contributions were made by countless Brookliners who have known and loved
George over his five decades at the firehouse. It took a few months for Doug to raise
the funds, get the plaque made by Matthews Bronze, and negotiate a few hurdles to
accomplish the task. It was well worth the effort.
A large crowd gathered to witness the ceremony
and the guest of honor was warmly greeted by his fellow firemen.
Doug Brendel and Chief Thomas Cook unveiled the
plaque, then local media interviewed George and his brother Michael.
Honorary Battalion Chief George Gilfoyle has given
so much over the years to the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
The special event was covered by local news
media and attended by scores of Brookliners. For George, it was the happiest day
of his life. Assistant Fire Chief Thomas Cook was on hand to officially unveil the
plaque. Initially speechless, after a few moments an elated George stated with pride,
"Now the fire station is named after me!" Brookline's Brother George Gilfoyle has
now been immortalized in the place he has always called home.
2014 and 2017 Brookline Firehouse
The Brookline firehouse has stood at the
corner of Brookline Boulevard and Castlegate Avenue for over 100 years. During
that time, the building has undergone occasional renovations but, for the most
part, has retained the same outward appearance as it had when built in
In the Summer and Fall of 2014, the Brookline
firehouse building was the recipient of some much needed love and attention. The
structure received a slight makover, with some interior and exterior renovations
Repairs were done to the roof and siding.
New windows were installed in the firehouse tower. Electrical and mechanical
improvements were made inside the building. When the job was finished, the
centenarian structure had shed many of it's signs of old age.
One aesthetic improvement was
the painting of the four windows on the front of the building, above the driveway.
The windows were painted over during the World War II years because of
mandatory blackouts. In the decades that followed, the upper portion of
the windows were left covered and painted over in several coats.
The aging paint had begun to peel and
the windows became an eyesore. During the renovation work, they were repainted
in a Victorian-style with rosettes. The end result of this seemingly minor
detail work was a splendid addition to the facade.
Another nice touch is the installation
of a blue light in the hose tower, which illuminates the windows at night.
The decorative light shines through the tower windows in honor of policemen
and firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty.
An Autumn moon can be seen over Brookline's
historic Engine House #26, shown to the left on October 13, 2014.
and the firehouse stands in the pale light of dusk three years later, in October
Finally, in the summer of 2017, the last
stage of the renovation efforts were performed. Work was done on the roof and
some of the fabricated copper eaves were replaced. Some of the bricks were pointed
and the concrete facade of the building was sandblasted to remove a century worth
of soot and grime. The last piece of the puzzle was not added until May 2018, when
the date "1910" was placed over the small round portal window on the facade above
the four upper floor windows.
The Brookline firehouse in May 2018, with the
"1910" date placed on the portal window. That was the
final piece of the five-year effort to repair the exterior of the vintage
In late-2014, artist Cecilia Brendel, of
Dayton, Ohio, began painting this image of the Brookline Firehouse to present to
her Uncle Doug. It was completed on January 18, 2015. Cecilia and her husband
Michael own an Art Gallery called Olde Masters Galleria in Dayton.
Anyone wishing to order prints
of this painting can click on the following link:
Fine Art America - Brookline Historic Engine House
Always Looking For
New Information And Photos
We are always looking for
old photos of the firehouse and our Brookline firefighters. If you
have any information that you would like to share, please contact us via
You can also send us a message on our Brookline Connection facebook page.
Below, Brookline Breeze runners pass the firehouse on August 13,
Architects Thomas W. Boyd and Company,
the designers of Brookline's Engine House #57, also provided the schematics
for another Pittsburgh firehouse, Sheraden's Engine Company #31. The historic
West End building is located at 3000 Chartiers Avenue. It was constructed
in early-1910 and was completed a few months before the Brookline
For all practical purposes, both the
Sheraden and Brookline firehouses have the same design, only inverted, with
the tower to the right instead of the left of the bay. Together, they form
the twin towers of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Engine Houses.
Sheraden's Engine House