Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fireboat House – Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory with Brooklyn Bridge behind
Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
Fire hose drying tower on Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
Fireboat House Tower
At the foot of Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn Bridge Park, sits a clapboard house with a tower. Built in 1926 at the former site of the Fulton Ferry landing, this structure was a fireboat house for the New York City Fire Department’s Marine Company 7, and the tower was used to hang and dry fire hoses.[1] After Marine Company 7 was disbanded, the building became home to the Fulton Ferry Museum, National Maritime Historical Society. The Fulton Ferry museum operated out of the fireboat house from 1976 to 1982 but left under pressure from the borough president’s office to make way for commercial use of the building.[2] Today, the old fireboat house is home to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (my favorite ice-cream).


Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory from East River Ferry
Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
The site of the fireboat house has its own historical significance.  During the Revolutionary War, the Fulton Ferry or “Brooklyn Ferry” landing as it was formerly known, was the site of a strategic retreat by George Washington’s Continental Army. On the night of August 29, 1776 the Continental Army ferried across the East River to escape from the advancing British troops after being defeated at the battle of Long Island. To avoid detection by the British Navy, the crossing was carried out at night and under cover of fog.[3]


Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory from East River Ferry
Fireboat House - Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
The ferry landing was also the location of the first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Ferry service at the site began in the mid 17th century under ownership of Cornelius Dirksen, the proprietor of an inn near Peck’s Slip in Manhattan.[3] Dirksen’s ferry was a skiff taking passengers to and from the Brooklyn Ferry landing and Peck’s Slip in Manhattan. Built by Robert Fulton, the first steam powered ferry to cross the east river went into service here on May 11th of 1814.[4] Demand for ferry service continued until the Brooklyn Bridge was built. Once the bridge was finished, ferry ridership dropped and service was eventually suspended until the East River Ferry began operating a few years ago.


Brooklyn Bridge, Fireboat House, ferry landing and Brooklyn Bridge Park from Manhattan
DUMBO Ferry Landing (Formerly Fulton Ferry Landing)
in Brooklyn Bridge Park from Manhattan
The ferry landing was also referenced in Walt Whitman's poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry". Below is a passage from the poem.
Flood-tide below me! I watch you face to face; Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me! On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose; And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

References:
  1. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. “Goodbye to the Boathouse” New York Times print. 27, June 1982.
  3. Landmarks Preservation Commission Report 25 November, 1975.
  4. LeBoef, Randall J. “Robert Fulton and the Fulton Ferry” The Journal of Long Island History.