The original Empire Firehouse was the second of San Jose's firehouses, constructed in 1869 to house the Empire Fire Engine Company No. 1. The Company had begun in 1854 as a volunteer firefighting team under foreman Charles E. Allen, and was also known as the "Irish Company." Ironically, the station was destroyed by a fire in 1892. History Park's replica of the firehouse was built in 1984.
Backstory and Context
The volunteer Empire Engine Company No. 1, or the Irish Company, was
admitted to the San Jose Fire Department on July 24, 1854. Its engine was a New
York side lever purchased from San Francisco's fire department, and its foreman
was Charles E. Allen. In 1869, the company moved to the two-story brick Empire
Firehouse on South Second Street (the present-day location of the Jose Theatre)
next door to Krumb's Brewery. This was the second fire station in San Jose, the
first being at Lightson Street. The Empire Company manned the city's first
steam-powered fire engine, hauling it by hand until 1871, when horses became
part of the team. The horse stalls, located at the rear of the firehouse, were
wired to respond to the fire alarm: the doors opened on an automatic spring
mechanism and harnesses lowered from the ceiling. All the driver had to do was
fasten the collars and attach the engine in a matter of seconds. In July of
1892, the Empire Firehouse fell victim to a fire which destroyed several blocks
of downtown San Jose. The replica of the Empire Firehouse at History Park is
used as an interactive exhibit space. For more about the history of San Jose's
Fire Department, see Clio entry on the San Jose Fire Museum.
1. Halberstadt, April. "Fire! San Jose Fire Department." Sourisseau Academy. 2015. Accessed
February 5, 2017. https://www.sourisseauacademy.org/LADS/January2016LADS.pdf.
2. History San Jose. "Empire Firehouse". Accessed February 5, 2017. http://historysanjose.org/wp/plan-your-visit/history-park/empire-firehouse/