The Brookline Firehouse

Brookline Firehouse 2014.
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 residents.

Brookline Firehouse 2011
The Brookline Firehouse in May 2011. The building, with it's tall tower, is a community historic landmark.




The Long Road To The Official Dedication

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 $16,000.

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 installed.

Brookline Engine
 House - 1920
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 operational.

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, 1911.

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 Firefighters - 1911
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.

1920 - Brookline firefighters.
Shown in picture are Captain Jonathan Martin,
Hoseman Harry Grimm and Hoseman Andrew Dalzell.
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 headquarters.

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.

Gamewell Firehouse Gong                Gamewell Fire Alarm Box
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 Engine House - 1920
Brookline's Engine House #57 in 1920.




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 - 1924.
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 stairwell in the Hose Tower    The pulley and pegs in the Hose Tower
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 Hutchison.

* Note: The Pumpman was the pumper driver and operator.




Wagons, Pumpers and Ladder Trucks

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.

Brookline Fire Engine - 1929
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 pumper.

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 Engine House - 1952
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 ladder truck.




Trucks And Crew Of Engine House #57 in 1970

Brookline Fire Engine - 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.

Brookline Firefighters - 1970

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
Firefighters use elevated platform as they battle a fire that swept through a row of buildings on May 31, 1973.




The Silent Guardian

2005 - A firefighter hoses down a three-alarm
blaze in Brookline that sent one Pittsburgh
firefighter to the Hospital. Fire broke
through the roof of the three-story building
at 704 Brookline Blvd., just across the street
from Pittsburgh Engine House 26 around 4:30pm.
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.

The firehouse crew in 2000.
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."

2008 - Brookline firefighters.
L to R: Lt. Mohan, Firefighter Evans,
Capt. Hoyle, Firefighter Chirum,
Lt. Heim and Firefighter Loeffert
Crew members of Truck Company #26 in 2008.




Brookline Firehouse Photo Links

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

The Brookline firehouse - 1998.
Brookline's Truck Company #26 in 1998.

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 Engine Company #26
responds to a fire at 954 Brookline
Boulevard on April 11, 2014.
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.




Season's Greetings - December 2012

Brookline Firehouse - December 2012.    Brookline Firehouse - 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 holiday cards.

Brookline's firehouse with Christmas Lights
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!

Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.

Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.    Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.

Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.    Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.

Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.    Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.

Fire on Shawhan Avenue - May 30, 2014.

View Video Of The Shawhan Avenue Fire - May 30, 2014




Waiting For The Next Call To Action

Brookline Firehouse - July 23, 2014
The Truck Company #26 crew, shown on July 23, 2014, stand ready to respond to an emergency at a moments notice.

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 Firefighters - 1920
Brookline's firefighters with their horse-drawn combination chemical and hose wagon in 1920.




Honorary Battalion 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 2000.

George Gilfoyle

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 Gilfoyle - 1998.
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.

George Gilfoyle - 2014.
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.

Special Dedication - August 8, 2015.    Special Dedication - August 8, 2015.
A large crowd gathered to witness the ceremony and the guest of honor was warmly greeted by his fellow firemen.

Special Dedication - August 8, 2015.    Special Dedication - August 8, 2015.
Doug Brendel and Chief Thomas Cook unveiled the plaque, then local media interviewed George and his brother Michael.

Special Dedication - August 8, 2015.    Special Dedication - August 8, 2015.
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.

Bronze Plaque honoring George Gilfoyle.




2014 and 2017 Brookline Firehouse Renovations

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 1910.

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 and refurbishments.

Firehouse renovation - 2014.    Firehouse renovation - 2014.

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.

Firehouse renovation - 2014.    Firehouse renovation - 2014.

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.

Firehouse October 13, 2014.    Firehouse - October 2017.
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 of 2017.

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 neighborhood building.




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 our
guestbook.
You can also send us a message on our
Brookline Connection facebook page.
Below,
Brookline Breeze runners pass the firehouse on August 13, 2011.

Runners pass the Brookline firehouse
during the 2011 Brookline Breeze.




The Twin Towers

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 station.

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 Engine House #31    Sheraden Engine House #31

Sheraden's Engine House #31

Sheraden Engine House #31

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