Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 6, Part II

By Holice and Debbie

On the tenth of January, 1814, the chief engineer reported that during the preceding year the sum of one thousand and ninety-two dollars and twenty cents had been received and collected from fines, which were applied to the relief of disabled firemen and their families, and for educating about seventy of their children. On the above date it was resolved that the staves of office to be carried at fires by members of the Common Council by similarly constructed with those lately made, (viz., with a gilded flame at the top), "and that the justices of the police and the superintendent of repairs be furnished with staves, to be used on like occasions."

The estimated value of the property belonging to the Fire Department at the close of 1814 was as follows:

15 brick buildings


82 wood buildings


2 lots of ground


41 engines


Floating engine and boat


4 old engines not in use


18,085 feet leather hose


1,000 fire buckets


4 trucks, 15 ladders, and 20 fire hooks, etc.


Signal lanterns, torches, axes, etc.


Drag ropes


Stoves and pipes


Hose wagon


1 cooper pump


20 loads nut wood




The extension of the city and the opening of new streets, though greatly checked, was not wholly suspended by the prostration of business consequent upon the unsettled condition of public affairs.

Immediately after the plan of the upper part of the city was definitely arranged, the Third Avenue was ordered to be opened and regulated from Stuyvesant Street to Harlem River, and a few years later a part of First Avenue was also brought into use. Several of the old streets in the lower part of the city were widened, straightened, and extended.

Soon after the return of peace, (war of 1812), Broadway, above Canal Street, and Spring and Broome Streets, began to be occupied with buildings, and that portion of the city advanced rapidly in improvements and population.

But the greatest public work of this kind undertaken during this period was the opening of Canal Street. An immense canal was opened from the Collect to the Hudson River, by which a vast extent of low grounds was drained, and the pond itself almost annihilated. Over this canal was thrown an arch of substantial mason work, upon which was built one of the most spacious and elegant thoroughfares in the city, the whole of which cost about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

The firemen having determined to apply to the legislature to enact a law granting them certain privileges, and the renewal of their charter, deemed it expedient to place in the hands of the representatives the following calculations, showing the principles on which their petition was founded:

From this record it appears that there were in:


5 fire and 9 alarms


6 fire and 6 alarms


10 fires and 5 alarms


6 fires and 5 alarms


6 fires and 6 alarms


9 fires and 9 alarms


11 fires and 6 alarms


10 fires and 7 alarms


9 fires and 8 alarms


16 fires and 13 alarms


13 fires and 6 alarms


23 fires and 6 alarms


21 fires and 10 alarms


23 fires and 14 alarms


16 fires and 25 alarms


25 fires and 19 alarms


26 fires and 27 alarms


20 fires and 23 alarms


37 fires and 39 alarms


29 fires and 32 alarms

*Averaging 13-3/5 per annum.
#Averaging 19-3/5 per annum.
+Averaging 31-2/5 per annum.
^Averaging 55-2/5 per annum.

By this it appears that their duty had increased in a four-fold proportion in the space of twenty years. From actual calculation on the average of the preceding five years, there was an increase of two hundred and seventy-five hours actual duty per annum, or two hundred and seventy-five days in ten years, allowing ten hours for a day.

The amount of the Fire Department Fund, December 1, 1814, was ten thousand six hundred and twenty-two dollars and thirty-eight cents; the amount of moneys paid the previous year for the relief of indigent firemen, their widows and the schooling of their children, was one thousand five hundred and eighty-six dollars, and twenty-five cents.

The recommendation of the Common Council to the several religious congregations of the city to build cisterns at the respective churches, heretofore recorded, was entirely ignored, although it was a measure that would redound to the safety of the churches as well as of the adjacent property. The corporation had within the years from 1810 to 1814 displayed great interest in the organization and system of the Fire Department, procuring the best attainable apparatus; but its efforts were still handicapped by the lack of a sufficient supply of water. It was, therefore, decided in February, 1814, to apply to the legislature for an act empowering the corporation to build cisterns when and where it seemed advantageous to do so.

During this year five engines of six and one-half inch caliber and the necessary appurtenances, also a new truck for the Hook and Ladder company at Greenwich, were purchased. The old engines No. 20 and 23 were sold, the former for four hundred dollars cash, and the latter to Pleasant Valley Manufacturing Company for six hundred dollars at six months. On April 11, 1815, there was passed "An act for the more effectual prevention of fires in the city of New York." This extended the fire limits from "a line, beginning at the North River, at a place called Dekleyne's Ferry, a little to the northward of the state prison to the road commonly called the Sandy Hill Road, to the northward of the Potter's Field and the house of William Neilson, to the Bowery, to a street commonly called Stuyvesant Street, to the East River."

The Common Council adopted a resolution (March 25, 1816), on the petition of a number of carpenters and others, suspending the duties of the fire wardens under the ordinance prohibiting the storing and seasoning of lumber on premises within the fire limits, the enforcement of which, it was alleged, would inure to the loss and inconvenience of those tradesmen. But a fire occurred in November in Water Street, which was much intensified and caused much damage by reason of the burning of a quantity of lumber, stored in the immediate vicinity, which caught fire. The Common Council soon after repealed the resolution of the Twenty-fifth of March.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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