The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Hook and Ladder 66

with 6 comments

g10_img_6230_jul4_hl66_1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just off the corner of Steinway is 38-13 Northern Blvd. It stands opposite the cyclopean Standard Motor Products building, and at the foot of the bridge which carries Steinway into 39th street and south to Skillman Avenue over the Sunnyside Yards. Currently, the structure houses part of the NYPD’s ESU units- the Emergency Medical Squad. The building was originally a firehouse- the Hook and Ladder 66.

The earliest volunteer fire company in Newtown was organized in 1843- the Wadownock Fire, Hook & Ladder No. 1. By 1902, there were 66 distinct volunteer fire departments in Queens. 19th century Long Island City was served by (amongst others) the Astoria Engine Co., the Hunter Engine Co., the Mohawk Hose Co., and the Tiger Hose Co. In 1890, the legislature of New York State abolished the volunteer departments, seeking to create a paid and professional force of firefighters. In Long Island City, as many as nine units were created, and then reorganized in 1894, as rampant political corruption had rendered the new units impotent against all but the smallest blazes. This corruption was centered around Long Island City’s mayor- Patrick “Battleax” Gleason- or was at least blamed on him by his enemies in the press. 

The critical date for this story is 1898, when Long Island City joined in the municipality of the City of Greater New York, and its firefighters joined the FDNY. 

g10_img_5121_nyc by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1900, FDNY Commissioner JJ Scannell proposed a sweeping expansion of fire service citywide, but especially in underserved Long Island City. The “Board of Estimate and Apportionment” was asked to make funds available for infrastructure- specifically fire houses. Built concurrently with the landmarked Engine 158 fire house at 10-40 47th Avenue, the building was budgeted to cost $18,000 to build and complete in 1901, but ended up costing $23,000 when it was dedicated in 1905. The architecture firm which built it was Paris & Schroeder, who designed the Bowery YMCA and many other Tammany projects. Along with the Engine 158 structure, this building was designed and overseen by Ernest Flagg and Bradford Lee GIlbert. Check this link out, for some local FDNY color from 1899.

Ernest  Flagg at wikipedia

Courtesy of MIT:

Beaux-Arts Architect and Urban Reformer
Mardges Bacon

Architect of the United States Naval Academy, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Scribner Building, and model tenement houses, Ernest Flagg (1857-1947) advanced the cause of classicism while demonstrating a deep concern for architecture’s social responsibility. This study of one of the most innovative practitioners of the Beaux-Arts movement in America covers Flagg’s early training and Beaux-Arts works, his town and country houses, his commercial and utilitarian buildings, the Singer Tower (which established a new height record while setting a precedent for New York City skyscraper restrictions in scale and density), urban housing reform, and his small houses of modular design.

Flagg, the author notes, combined French nineteenth century aesthetics and the principles of academic classicism with American structural technology to create significant buildings during the Progressive Era from 1890 to 1917. His contributions to zoning and height regulations were essential to New York’s first laws governing this aspect of the city’s architecture. A confirmed individualist, Flagg produced highly original writings and ingenious inventions for construction techniques in low-cost housing and railroad cars.

Flagg’s adaptation of classicism and his concern for urban contextualism make this study of his work particularly timely. His designs have immediate relevance for contemporary architects and preservationists, as well as those interested in the social and architectural history of New York City.

Pictures & Flagg’s plan to extend Manhattan’s grid

Engine Co. 33

Courtesy of Bradford Lee

Bradford Lee Gilbert
(March 24, 1853 – September 1, 1911)

Bradford Lee Gilbert was born in Watertown, New York to parents Marie Antoinette (Bacon) and Horatio Gates Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert was well educated having attended Sedgwick Institute, Gt. Barrington, Siglar’s School, Newburg, Irvington and Yale College.

He was a member of the New York Chapter of American Institute of Architects, The National Sculpture Society, The Architectural League, The National Arts Club, The Transportation Club, The Quill Club, The Riding Club, and The Chicago Club.

Mr. Gilbert enjoyed many distinctions, but was a driving force in the growing railroad industry. He was the consulting architect to eighteen of the principal railroads in America, and was appointed as official architect to the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad under Octave Chanute (who assisted in the Wright Brother’s creation of airplanes).

Mr. Gilbert played a major role in other railroad companies like, the enlargement to the first Grand Central Station in New York; the Illinois Central Station in Chicago, Illinois; the Boston & Maine Union Station in Lowell, Maine and many others.

Bradford passed away in Accord, Ulster County, New York of Dropsy.

One of the few buildings attributed to him that wasn’t part of a railroad

g10_img_6236_jul4_hl66_2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

In January of 1913, all Brooklyn and Queens fire companies had their unit numbers moved forward by 100- thus Engine 158 became 258. Hook and ladder 166’s history gets a little hazy in the intervening years, and a unit with the 166 designation seems to still be extant in Brooklyn- but the history of the FDNY is best discussed by experts. At some intervening point in the last hundred years that I have not been able to pin down (most likely the early 80’s), the building passed into the hands of the Police department which assigned its ESU NYPD Emergency Medical Squad to the premise. They are the current stakeholders, in this part of the Newtown Pentacle.

ESU are the Green Berets of the NYPD, assigned the most challenging and dangerous jobs. Most are former United States Special Forces or U.S. Marines who bring ingenious skills and hard won experience to work every day. If you are in real trouble in New York City, the ESU is your personal Batman. Two fully loaded paramedic ambulances and a variety of specialized response vehicles are based here. ESU medical is commanded by a 35 year NYPD veteran and former Marine, Chief of Special Operations Charles D. Kammerdener.

7/19/09 Note and addendum: Queenscrap ran a blog post about this article, and “anonymous” posted this in their comments:

Ladder 66 is now Ladder 116 (all companies renumbered in 1913 after NYC expanded, the E158 house is really Engine 258)
The Ladder Company that occupied this Northern Blvd house is now located on 29th St near 37th Ave and was quartered with Engine 261 for over 80 years until “King Bloomberg” closed E261 in May 2003

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 9:28 pm

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I have a photo of the Fire Crew from Ladder 66 or what was known after 1913 as Ladder 116. The Captain of Ladder 116 from 1906 till 1925 was Thomas F. McKeon.

    James Rooney

    July 20, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    • Hey Jim…
      Any chance you’d want to share a copy of that photo for a website on the history of the FDNY? I’d love to have it. I’m trying to memorialze all the men who served and especially all the men we’ve lost over the years. I can be reached at (that’s an L before the 54). Thanks much.
      Tom McLoughlin

      Tom McLoughlin

      February 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

  2. […] a comment » I posted about the Hook and Ladder 66 firehouse on Northern Blvd. a few weeks ago. In that post, I commented on how the history of the FDNY is a historical subject […]



    April 8, 2010 at 9:41 am

  4. […] Hook and Ladder 66 […]

  5. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


    July 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: