The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Project Firebox 12

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Following Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh around Bushwick one day, this very old firebox was observed.

It exhibited a couple of unique features, which even the great explorer and expert of these urban climes found puzzling. We shot photos, and moved on in search of certain locations rumored to have survived in the area unscathed by modernity, remnants of the German Brewers which once typified the population of this ancient section of Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Several days later, the normally steady and wholesome measure of Mr. Walsh’s correspondence took on a feverish tone when he reported that the network of antiquarians and recluse scholars with which he maintains communication had delivered to him a detailed description of the enigmatic firebox,  with it’s embossed “H.P. TEL” on the crown and dated base.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that when the fire system, pipe and pump wise, was first laid down in the early 20th century, technological infancy limited the number of streets that could be served by high pressure lines. Reserved for high rises, factories, and high density tenement blocks- the high pressure water common today was only available in certain areas. However, should the need arise, a fire chief carried a key that would access one of these “H.P. TEL” fireboxes which would send a command back to the firehouse to throw open the valves that would pressurize the lines flowing through its district.

The TEL stands for telegraph, apparently, and the whole scheme ceased to be necessary sometime in the 1950’s.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 7, 2010 at 8:52 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] The last time I saw one of these models was in Bushwick way back in 2010. Check out the post here. […]

  2. […] here, at your Newtown Pentacle, before. Check out “Project Firebox 51” and or “Project Firebox 12” for more on the […]


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