Museum Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am to 3:00pm
The Plaza Firehouse was the first building in the city designed to house fire fighting crews and their equipment. The architect was William Boring of Boring and Haas, and the contractor was Denis Hennessy. There is a small balcony on the Plaza façade, above which is a small, wood-shingled tower topped by a pole sporting a weather vane in the shape of a fire helmet.
A volunteer city Fire Department was formed in 1871. The first occupants of the Firehouse when it was built in 1884 were called the Volunteer 38s (this being the number of men in Engine Company No 1.) Another volunteer company, Engine Company No. 2 was an arch rival. Each company competed to be first at a fire. Both were equipped with an Ahrens steam engine, paid for jointly by the City and the County of Los Angeles.
When the fire alarm sounded crew members slid down the brass pole from their quarters on the second floor, hooked up the horses, scrambled into their places and were off. Upon their return, the fire engine was turned around 180 degrees and the horses returned to their stalls.
When the city established a paid fire department in December of 1895, many of the Volunteer 38s enlisted and the team became known as Engine Company No. 4. It then turned out that the City did not own the land on which the Firehouse was built. Mrs. Ludovica Bigelow took her claim against the City all the way to the Supreme Court and won. After that she charged an elevated rent for the building. The City paid the lease for five more years until 1897 and then moved the fire company to other quarters. From that time on the Firehouse was rented out variously as a saloon, boarding house, poolroom, Chinese vegetable market, drug store and bordello. Although it had declined considerably by the time that the State acquired the building in 1954, the walls and beams were still in place and the building was restored to display firefighting equipment of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.