Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another Building Collapse - Swan Street Fire House

This morning, the Times Union has a report of a partial building collapse at the corner of Swan and Jefferson Streets. The building in question is a former Albany firehouse overlooking the New York State Museum and Empire State Plaza.

The yellow brick firehouse has been vacant for many years and, according to the TU, is privately owned. According to an official at the scene, it is the buildings roof which has collapsed. Not doubt the recent heavy rains - first from the remnants of Hurricane Irene and additional rains over the past few days - contributed to the damage. I'm no structural engineer, but the brick walls seem largely intact at this point. I could see debris in the otherwise empty interior.

The simple yellow brick facade dates to 1938 and was part of a Works Progress Administration project to modernize several existing firehouses. However, the building itself apparently predates the WPA and may have been built shortly after the 1867 reorganization of the Albany fire department. The location was chosen in part because the site sits atop a slope making it easier for horses to draw the fire trucks downhill.

The Americanus Engine Company Number 13 was assigned this station in 1867. The neighborhood just west of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was slowly being developed as new houses were built along Madison Avenue and parallel streets. When Company 13 disbanded two years later, Steamer Number 6 was assigned to the new station. Originally a steamer company, it motorized in 1918.

The decision to close this firehouse in 1986 was met with criticism and protests (including a demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion on nearby Eagle Street, one of the buildings covered by this fire station). The building was auctioned and has remained unused since.

As of 11:30 this morning, National Grid crews were on the scene, along with officials from the fire and building departments.

More as this story develops.

ETA: According to an updated story in the TU, the building will not be demolished and the owner is working with the city to stabilize the structure. The flagpole on the roof is being removed as a result of the roof collapse, but the tower near the rear of the building is said to be in no danger. The article also notes that the old fire house is actually several buildings combined within the yellow brick exterior. This can be see by the entrances on the Swan Street side; the smallest one was access for hose carts and the large for the horse-drawn (and later, motorized) fire trucks.