The Building still stands today. Photo by Don Van Holt


Engineer James P. Shannon tending Engine 31s steamer in the front of quarters.

More about officer Shannon

Engine Company 31 was organized on October 20,1865. It served proudly in the above firehouse. It was disbanded on November 25, 1972.


I think it was in the summer of 1972 that I first heard of the firehouse in lower Manhattan. I read in the newspaper that the city was going to sell a firehouse at public auction. Not thinking much of it at the time I just happened to be on Canal Street one day and came across that firehouse with a notice of sale posted on it. I could not believe my eyes; it was gorgeous almost like a gingerbread house or a French chateau. I asked myself how could the city sell such a beautiful building? It was one of a kind. I wondered then about the history behind that building and about the men who once worked there.

Many years later after starting this page, I was about to rediscover that same building and learn more about it. I helped the Fire Museum start on the web, when I found they had no presence on the Internet. They had old computers and no modems at all. I developed a page for them and posted it for the rest of the world to see. In turn they let me sign out some old photos, take them home and scan them and put them on the respective companies' pages. I try to get there about once a month when I can. One day while in the basement of the museum I came upon an old photo of that building and this time I learned it was the former quarters of Engine company 31. It was still early so I decided to walk down to Canal Street and see if I could re-find the old firehouse. I had remembered that it was south of Canal but didn't know on what cross street it was on. I kept walking east on the southern side of Canal Street and kept looking south at every intersection. When I got to Lafayette Street there it was, two blocks south. I walked up to it but it was locked so I went across the street and took a photo of it. I then saw some people going in,and I went across the street, spoke to them, and asked if it would be ok to have a look inside.

I met with the new owners and showed them the old photo of Engine 31, which they now owned. They let me walk around and I could just feel and almost hear the sounds of the past. There was a tremendous sense of history in that building and I seemed to feel it very strongly. They were on the net so I sat down and called up the FDNY Home Page and bookmarked it for them. I thanked them and went on my way home.

About a week later another person was in search of that very same building, his name was Randy Shannon. He also had a photo of that same building, taken from almost the same exact spot from where I had just taken the photo a week earlier, but he had an image of a fireman or engineer across the street complete with a steamer and horses. He also went in and spoke to the new owners and they showed him around and told him that I had been there. They also showed him the web site that I had left behind and he e-mailed me a few days later. Randy said he had some old photos of his grandfather when he was an engineer in Engine Company 31.

We got together and he left the photos and some papers for me to scan and make a page about his grandfather. When I had finished and he came over to pick them up I told him that he should have them duplicated and to give them the Fire Museum. He did just that and while going over the papers and photos with the collections manager Peter, they discovered that his grandfather was also a Lieutenant In Engine 30 at 278 Spring Street. 278 Spring Street is the current location of the New York City Fire Museum; it was once Engine Company 30!

Don, Webmaster 2/14/99


What made me go to Engine 31? What made Randy go to Engine 31? And now his papers are in a firehouse where he worked as a Lieutenant, Engine Company 30 at 278 Spring street.

The New York City Fire Museum (Engine Company 30)

by: DONALD VAN HOLT (Ladder 103 / Engine 216 / Ladder 108 Retired, 1983)

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