Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The 1904 Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 -- 14 North Moore Street

photo by Alice Lum
In 1866 Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 moved from Franklin Street to 7 North Moore Street where it remained for nearly a half century. After the consolidation of the five boroughs of New York in 1898, the Metropolitan Fire Department was reorganized into the New York City Fire Department.

On February 5, 1904 the Sinking Fund Commissioners met and discussed the issue of erecting a new fire station for Hook and Ladder Company No. 8. The property at the southeast corner of North Moore and Varick Streets, where the old North Moore Street School stood, was appropriated for the purpose.

Until 1895 the fire stations had been designed by the architectural firm of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons; but with the its reorganization the fire department now had its own in-house architect, Alexander H. Stevens. Stevens received the impressive title “Superintendent of Buildings.”

The Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 would be one of his first designs. A “double company” facility, it was a handsome brick and limestone structure with two great matching arched truck entrances opening onto North Moore Street. Above each entrance the high second and third story windows were encased in a limestone framing. Carved stone scrolled brackets supported the plain cornice. Each truck entrance was embellished with an ornamental, Baroque cartouche.

For decades Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 had distinguished itself with awards. In 1914 Capt. John E. Farley accepted the John T. Stephenson Medal for maintaining the highly-efficient company during 1913.

Fire fighters pose before the station before it was cut in half.
That same year the Company received surprising news regarding its ten-year old building.  A year earlier the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment had begun the $3 million project of widening Varick Street by 30 feet and connecting it to 7th Avenue. The project would increase the width of Varick Street to 100 feet.

More than 200 buildings stood in the way of the expansion, among them the majestic 1807 Georgian-style St. John’s Chapel as well as Hook and Ladder Company No. 8. The Fire Department looked at property across the street as a site for a replacement building.

But then Fire Commissioner Robert Adamson made a surprising decision: the fire house would simply be cut in half.

The cost to buy the site across the street would be $110,000 and the cost of razing the existing building would add another $25,000. But by simply reducing the double company to a single one and renovating the structure to half its size, the total cost was reduced to $20,000.

The alterations to the building were astonishingly invisible. The limestone cornices, the carved stone brackets, the window treatment were all deftly copied so that the casual passerby is given no clue of the change.

The renovations necessary by the widening of Varick Street resulted in a one-bay firehouse -- photo by Alice Lum
Fireman John Walsh brought accolades to the company when on October 25, 1916 he did what the Fire Department deemed “the most daring act performed in three years.” The factory building at 21-25 East Houston Street was engulfed in flames and working girls were trapped inside. One, Ida Goldberg, appeared in a seventh story window with no way out.

Walsh hung his scaling ladder from the cornice of an adjoining building and, by “swinging like a pendulum was able to grab the girl by the arm. Though a slip meant death, he brought her to safety,” praised The New York Times.  Commissioner Adamson called the action “one of the finest rescues in the history of the New York Fire Department. Walsh was awarded a Medal of Valor by the mayor.

While Walsh remained home fighting fires, Fred J. G. Wedemeyer left to fight the war in France. Two years after Walsh’s award, Mayor Hylan decorated Wedemeyer for meritorious acts performed with the army in 1917. Sadly, on June 10, 1952, Fireman First Grade Frank E. Wolf’s Department Medal was awarded posthumously.

It would not be the many meritorious acts of the fireman of Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 that would bring the building fame, however.  In 1984 the firehouse was used as the exterior of Ghostbusters headquarters. Because it was still an active firehouse, a decommissioned station in Los Angeles was used for the interior shots. But film buffs recognize the TriBeCa firehouse, which was used again in the 1989 Ghostbusters II, and flock there to take photographs.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 responded to the murderous attack on the World Trade Center buildings. Lt. Vincent G. Halloran would not return that day. In 2005 a movement was begun to consider renaming the block along North Moore Street between Varick and West Broadway for Lieutenant Halloran.

In the Spring of 2011 Mayor Michael Bloomberg included Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 on his list of 20 fire houses slated to close in a money-saving thrust. The TriBeCa community responded with an outpouring of frustration and anger. In June a crowd of over 100 residents, politicians and firefighters assembled to protest the projected closing.

The half-a-firehouse at 14 North Moore Street is still active, although that situation could change. In the meantime, the dignified structure that was once twice its size provides an interesting footnote in TriBeCa and FDNY history.

Many thanks to reader Francesco Spreafico for requesting this post.


  1. Exactly. I've looked closely at the building and the invisibility of the remake is astounding. They apparently carefully removed and re-used the limestone trim and possibly even the brick to make a seamless renovation.

  2. Great article! Does anyone have any infomation on its change in colour? In the ghostbusters movies it appears to have a black/dark brown brick colouring in the first movie and appears as it does in the photo above in the second? Also would love it if any one knew anywhere where the were full pictures of the original building ?

    1. Maybe the bricks of the walls was in fact only washed with high-pressure water between both films...

  3. Good questions. I'm guessing that the tint work on the brick color was done in the studio.

    And about the photo -- I'd LOVE to see that original. If anyone finds it, let me know too!

  4. The second I saw the pictures I thought ghost busters. And sure enough it was. It's a amazing building and deserves the recognition given to it.

  5. over time the veneer of the brick wore away to expose the red underneath. you can realy see it in the second movie

  6. Hello.

    I'm here for searching pictures from the real top roof from the original Ghostbustershouse.

    Have anyone pictures from this?


    1. Superb article. some great work done to this building.

    2. ..was searching for any information on the 1916 fire and came across this site
      my Grandfather .. Fireman Michael Sloane was the fireman that worked with Fireman Walsh that day to save lives
      I have inherited the scrapbook and it even has pictures of the medal ceremony when my Grandfather received the Mayor Strong Medal in 1916.. that I still have ..and as our family history is told Ida Goldberg named one of her children Sloane
      . would love to hear from her relatives it will be 100 years soon
      thanks John Sloane + John Michael Sloane (great grandson)
      ....??...would not let me leave my email .. I will check back on occasion thanks

    3. Hi John I am a fireman working at ladder 8 and have been for the last 20 years..I am sorry to say that I have no info on Ida or any of her family members. As you may know the fire department is coming up on it's 150th year anniversary as a paid department. We ( the members of ladder 8 ) would love to have copies of some of the pictures from you grandfathers scrapbook so we can hang them in the firehouse for all to see.. Do you live in the city ? I will check back, hope the meet with you and talk some more.. Thanks FF John Channell

    4. Hi. I just came across this page. Great article. My Great Grandfather is John Walsh. I have some articles about this rescue from my Great Aunt, as well as article she wrote about life of a Fireman's Family.

  7. Hi, I recently received a photo of my great, great grandfather, Daniel M Lynx standing, in uniform, next to a Dalmation sitting on a table presumably in front of the firehouse. Written on the photo: "Rex" Mascot. Co. No. 8 NYC. If anyone could give me more information on him and the dog that would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Not sure if you'll get this after all these years, but Rex was with Engine Company 8 in the 1930s. He was fatally injured in a fire in July 1938. The men had a hero's funeral for him, complete with a metal box lined with white velvet. He was buried at the Bide-a-Wee Pet Memorial Park in Wantagh, Long Island. By the way, I am writing a book about fire mascots and I'd love to use the photo of your great grandfather if you still have it. Please reply at pgavan@optonline.net if you receive this. Link to Rex story: https://www.newspapers.com/image/686118769/?terms=Queens%20%22Engine%20Company%22%20mascot&match=1

  8. Hi, I have a picture of my grandfather Daniel McAlinden. His helmet reads146 . Was ladder co 146 part of engine co 8. Picture was taken about 1918. Any info would be helpful. Thanks.

  9. The second I saw the pictures I thought ghost busters. And sure enough it was. It's a amazing building.They apparently carefully removed and re-used the limestone trim and possibly even the brick to make a seamless renovation.

  10. john channell and anyone else at hook and ladder 8 and bill cooney (great grandson) of fireman walsh we are planning a get together on the 100th year anniversary of that infamous fire on october 25 1916...this coming October 25th 2016 (tuesday).i have a group of family and relatives of Michael Sloane that will be coming still working on some details .. would love for others to get involved ......john Sloane sloaney731@msn.com