Fire Patrol No. 2: A Bit of NYC’s Firefighting History

Isn’t it funny how you can walk down a street a hundred times and miss something in plain sight? Recently I walked parts of Greenwich Village in my hunt for the Ai Weiwei installations (I wrote about those previously here), and I noticed something I’d never paid any attention to before: Fire Patrol No. 2. This time it intrigued me, and I took several photos, determined to research and learn more about it later.

From searching the internet, I discovered this building has an interesting history. I had assumed that the firehouse was part of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), but it turns out that it actually predates the FDNY. Built in 1906 by the New York Board of Fire Underwriters, Fire Patrol No. 2 housed part of the New York Fire Patrol. The New York Fire Patrol was a private firefighting organization with roots going back to the early 1800s. It was funded by fire insurance companies that wanted to protect the city buildings they insured.

The New York Fire Patrol was disbanded in 2006, and the firehouse’s future was in question. At one point, there was concern that the historic building would be torn down to make way for new development, especially after it was denied New York City Landmark status. Eventually, Fire Patrol No. 2 was purchased by CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper, who renovated the interior to make it into a private home while meticulously restoring the outside of the building. Finally, about four years ago, the southern part of Greenwich Village achieved city landmark status, protecting the firehouse from future threats. (Wonder what the firehouse looked like before its restoration? The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has several photos, as well as a more detailed version of the building’s history, here.)

One of my favorite firehouse details is this sculpture of Mercury, symbolizing swiftness. Speed would definitely be a virtue when responding to a fire.

On a more solemn note, I noticed this plaque honoring Patrolman Keith Roma, who lost his life while saving people at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Only 27 years old at the time of his death, Roma was the only member of the fire patrol to die that day.

Fire Patrol No. 2 is located at 84 West 3rd Street, between Sullivan and Thompson Streets.