On March 14, 2023, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to calendar the Fire Alarm and Telegraph Bureau, Bronx Central Office building located at 1129 East 180th Street in the West Farms section of the Bronx. The building has remained in use for over a century.
The building was completed in 1915 by architect Frank J. Helmle and constructed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The building is a twin of the Brooklyn Central Office, which was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1966. The T-shaped building features light brick cladding, a deep terra-cotta cornice and a hipped roof covered in Spanish tiles. The front of the building features a broad stoop leading to a recessed loggia blocked in by an arcade. The front features trabeated window openings and has a grille-work transom. The sides feature trios of large arched windows in an arcaded surround, and the rear facade has a single arched window.
The building represents a time in the city’s history when the fire alarm system grew to meet the city’s changing needs. A primary system of watchtowers who alerted volunteer firefighters with bells was improved with the addition of telegraph connections between the towers in 1851. In 1871, a fire alarm telegraph system was constructed with public alarm boxes which connected to a central office. The central office would then relay the information to relevant companies. This system served only Manhattan and the East River Islands until it was expanded to the west Bronx in 1874.
When the city was consolidated in 1898, the centralized fire alarm bureau in Manhattan was not equipped to handle the alarms citywide. As a result, new central offices were established in each borough to improve response times. The buildings were placed in large open lots within city parkland to protect them from interferences with communications. For the Bronx, the building was placed in the southeastern corner of Bronx Park.
The Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, Bronx Central Officer was dedicated in 1923 when it became fully operational. In the early 21st century, renovations were made with new windows in the style of the historic fenestration. A small addition was also added to the rear. Despite these changes, the building maintains excellent integrity to the original design. The building continues to be an important part of the Fire Department’s communications system.
Landmarks unanimously voted to calendar the building and will hold a public hearing at a later date.
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)
LPC: Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, Bronx Central Office, LP-2668 (March 14, 2023).