This is a photo-montage that I have been thinking about putting together for a while now. For the fire buffs and preservationists out there this may be the last record of Philadelphia’s Old Fire Department Headquarters AKA The Race St. Firehouse.

Like most things worth keeping in any big city the old building was torn down to make way for the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. As usual the idiotic politicians decided that what makes a city great- it’s history wasn’t worth preserving. In fact a number of architechturally important buildings were torn down to expand the white elephant convention center. Instead of saving the building and maybe incorporating it into the design- something that would have required a eighth graders imagination they destroyed it.

So in memory of the building and it’s history I am putting it on the Web where it will live forever. Enjoy.

Side shot of the building.

 LADDER 23 One of the original companies stationed here.

I took these pictures over the span of a couple months as the building was being prepped for destruction.

Ladder 23 “C” Plt. L to R- Johnny K, Kenny M, Harry The “King” and Freddy P.

One thing that made this building famous were the six gargoyles that adorned the front apparatus bay corners. They were removed prior to demolition and taken to a “secure undisclosed location” presumably by a state agency. I was promised that the one pictured, representing our company, Ladder 23 would be returned. It hasn’t been. As the only company still in service that operated from this building, that gargoyle is part of the company heritage. Hopefully it will be returned to Ladder 23 at some point. The following are pictures of the others;


Engine 31 gargoyle.


ENGINE 17 gargoyle.

The following shots are of the interior. In it’s final years the building was used by the Police Department. Inside there were two ornate fireplaces. It’s hard to imagine this as a public building.

Beautiful wood paneling and another fireplace.

Random interior shot.

Most likely the Commissioners office.

I believe this was an old hose table but I’m not 100% sure. It was in the basement.

Second floor interior courtyard / roof. It was designed by the same architecht who designed Philly City Hall. The courtyard allowed natural light into the building.

Old hose tower with center city in the background.

   City crests- also removed prior to destruction.

Gargoyle row.

The demolition begins:

Construction / DESTRUCTION fencing goes up, Gargoyles and crests removed.

Rise of the machines.

Cranes start clearing the site.


Site shot from the parking garage across the street.

What would Billy Penn say???

The hose tower clings to life…

It’s just a matter of time.

The deed is done. The site is scrubbed clean in the name of “progress”.

12 Responses to RACE ST. FIREHOUSE

  1. John says:

    Just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blog. I’m on the job in Houston now (soon to retire) but was born at 72nd and Woodland and raised in South Jersey.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Henry T.Jacobs says:

    There was also a swimming pool in the station. I believe it was covered over at some point for offices. Rescue 1 (big) also ran from the station in the 50’s and early 60’s. One of the great old stations. Stay safe,Jake

  3. George Bucher says:

    I swam in that pool at 17’s after a 3 bagger at
    20th & Arch, summer of ’72.

    • Eileen (Grumm) Chimples says:

      These pictures make me wonder about so many years ago. Was the fire house near the “chief surgeon’s” where they took us when we were little for eye exams and things like that? For some reason, 2nd & Race is in my mind, but I don”t know. And we went to “Doctors’ Hospital”(?) to have tonsils removed and my Dad was in PGH for almost a year when he broke his back on the job. None of these are around. And I remember an Ernie Bucher?

  4. At least you have the photos… the station will live forever if the photos do as well.

  5. bob weaver says:

    GEEZ…. What memories you gave me.
    My Grandfather was the Fire Comish’s driver in the
    50’s early 60’s until he retired.We would take the
    old PTC bus from Roxborough to the Race st. firehouse
    to get his paycheck. I would climb the steps to the
    2nd floor and slide down the fire pole. I think I
    was about 5 or 6 years old! It is ashame history can’t
    be saved!!! BUT THANKS AGAIN

  6. Kandi says:

    I never knew this was the original station for L-23. It looks like it was a beatiful house back in its day. Too bad it could not have been saved. I worked on the “C” plt with Harry, pictured above.

  7. Nice pictures. Demolition is also going on in some pictures.

  8. […] RACE ST. FIREHOUSE   […]

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Enjoyed your pictures and site very much. I was at the mass today which celebrated the four firefighters who lost their lives fighting the fire in town and St. John’s RC Church in 1899. thank you for your service. I come from a family of civil servants. My father was a Fairmount Park Guard, an uncle a Philly cop and another uncle a Philly Firefighter. Last name Mount.

  10. Joan Anton says:

    Thanks for posting these pictures. It’s a same they destroyed such an important building in the history of PFD. My uncle and grandfather were both Philly Fire. My grandfather was the chauffer on the first motorized ladder at L12. My uncle died in a fire in 1965.

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