Fire stations of the world: New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Hook and Ladder 8 Fire Station AKA Ghostbusters base, US
Firehouse Hook and Ladder Company 8 is a New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire station, located at 14 North Moore Street at its intersection with Varick Street in the Tribeca neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City in the US. Its exterior has become famous as the base of the Ghostbusters in the supernatural comedy film franchise of the same name. The firehouse was built in 1903 after the establishment of the FDNY as the base of the formerly independent Hook and Ladder Fire Company 8. The building was designed as the first of a series of Beaux-Arts style firehouses by the city superintendent of buildings, Alexander H Stevens. The building, which originally had two vehicle doors, was halved in size in 1913 after Varick Street was widened.
The fire fighters of Hook and Ladder No 8 were among the first responders to the 11 September 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre. Lieutenant Vincent G Halloran did not return to quarters that day. He was survived by his wife, Marie and six children. In 2005, a movement began to rename the block of North Moore Street between Varick and West Broadway for Lieutenant Halloran.
In 2011, the firehouse was threatened with closure after the city administration planned to close 20 fire companies to save money. But after a public campaign to save it, supported by the later Mayor Bill de Blasio and actor Steve Buscemi (the latter a trained New York City fire fighter from 1980 to 1984), the firehouse remains in service. From 2016 to 2018, it was subject to a renovation costing $6 million.
Hook and Ladder Company 8 was established in 1865 as a volunteer fire company. It was originally located at 153 Franklin Street. In 1866, Ladder 8 was relocated to its new quarters at 7 North Moore Street, where it would remain for decades.
After the consolidation of the five boroughs of New York in 1898, the Metropolitan Fire Department was reorganised into the New York City Fire Department. A few years later, plans started to erect a new fire station for Ladder 8.
Located at 14 North Moore Street, Ladder 8’s new quarters would be one of the first of its designs, a “double company” facility of handsome brick and limestone, with two great archway entrances for the two companies the quarters would house.
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 and Sons but with the its reorganisation 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, Captain John E Farley accepted the John T Stephenson Medal for maintaining the highly-efficient company during 1913.
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 passer-by is given no clue of the change.
Fireman John Walsh brought accolades to the company when on 25 October 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 Valour by the mayor.
While Walsh remained home fighting fires, Fred JG 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 10 June 1952, Fireman First Grade Frank E Wolf’s Department Medal was awarded posthumously.
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.
In 2015, Ladder 8’s door was closed once again for renovations, with the company temporarily relocated to the quarters of Ladder 20 in SoHo. In June 2018, Ladder 8 returned to their now modernized firehouse. The members of Ladder 8 continue to serve the great people of this City, especially their neighbours in Tribeca.
Ghostbusters, other movies and Lego
The firehouse was selected as the base of the "Ghostbusters" for the 1984 film after an early draft of the script envisaged the Ghostbusters as a public service much like the fire department. Reportedly, the firehouse was chosen because writer Dan Aykroyd knew the area and liked the building. While the firehouse served as the set for exterior scenes, the interior of the Ghostbusters base was shot in a Los Angeles studio and in Fire Station No 23, a decommissioned Los Angeles firehouse.
In the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, the firehouse makes two appearances. In the 2021 film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the firehouse made a cameo during a post-credits sequence. The firehouse has also appeared in the 2005 film Hitch and in episodes of the television series Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother. In 2015, Lego announced a 4 634-piece "Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters" set based on the building, released in January 2016. It is the ninth-largest set ever made by Lego.
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.
Sources: New York City Fire Department (FDNY), Wikipedia, Daytonian in Manhattan