Thursday, September 3, 2015

BFD Engine Company 38 – 176 Norman Avenue

Brooklyn Fire Department Engine Company 38 Building
Engine Company 38 Firehouse
Top Floor Brooklyn Fire Department Engine Company 38 Building
BFD Engine Company 38 Firehouse - Top Floor
Brick B.F.D. initials on Brooklyn Fire Department Engine Company 38 Building
BFD Engine Company 38 Firehouse - B.F.D.
First floor of Brooklyn Fire Department Engine Company 38 Building
BFD Engine Company 38 Firehouse - First Floor
Compared to other Brooklyn Fire Department buildings constructed during the same era, the Engine Company 38 building’s design is understated. The building’s first floor façade is constructed from rusticated bluestone. The upper two floors are brick with brick patterns and relief used to create a cornice and quoining. Bluestone lintels over the second floor windows and a bluestone sill under the third floor windows frame the B.F.D. lettering.

Historic photo of Engine Company 38 horse team, pumper and crew
Engine Company 38 circa 1915 (Photo: Brooklyn's Historic Greenpoint)

Engine Company 38
Engine Company 38 was first commissioned when Greenpoint was an industrial neighborhood. At the time industries received little regulatory scrutiny, often resulting in dangerous working conditions. The Faber Pencil Factory, Chelsea Fiber Mill, American Manufacturing Company and a Standard Oil Refinery were some of the large manufacturers in Greenpoint. Industrial disasters were relatively common and Engine Company 38 would have been among the first responders to neighborhood fires and explosions.[1]

Engine Company 38 was organized on July 15th, 1895. It was reorganized to Engine Company 138 after Brooklyn became part of New York City in 1898 and the Brooklyn Fire Department (B.F.D.) was incorporated into the Fire Department of New York (F.D.N.Y.). In 1913 the fire companies were reorganized again and Engine 138 became Engine 238. Each reorganization added 100 to the original company number for all of the borough’s fire companies. The firehouse at 176 Norman Avenue was vacated when Engine Company 238 moved to 205 Greenpoint Avenue with Hook & Ladder Company 106.[2] According to a Daily News article the firehouse closed down after budget cutbacks and became surplus city property in 1976. After closing the city attempted to rent out the property, at one point for an animal shelter, before selling it in 1980.[3] In 1985 the building was sold to its current owners, Walter Kenul and Janet Rutkowski, who operate a studio out of the building called BFD Firehouse Studios. They produce architectural iron work and large scale sculptures.[4]

  1. "Brooklyn Fire Department House on Norman Avenue" Atlas Obscura
  2. Brian Merlis & Riccardo Gomes Brooklyn's Historic Greenpoint Gomerl Publishing, NJ 2015
  3. Medina, David “Residents bark at turning firehouse into animal hut” Daily News 30 November, 1978
  4. BFD Firehouse Studios


  1. Such a great building; understated for sure but there's a bit of elegance in the lower facade and entranceway.
    It's hard to tell from the pics; are the planters original?
    I had assumed it was a residential building. Good post!

    1. Thank you for the comment. The planters are not original. The original entrance had large doors that swung out and the planters would have impeded their opening. Additionally, they would have been designed with bluestone to match the facade. The planters were likely added by the current owners, possibly to protect the corners of the entrance with something more attractive than the bollards typically used for such applications.