This exhibit building’s facade is a reconstruction of the Empire Firehouse, which was located at 76 South Second Street (now 375 Second Street) from 1869-1892. The History Park replica was dedicated on June 9, 1984.
The San Jose Fire Department was established by a City ordinance in 1854, and was initially an intensely dedicated volunteer organization. In 1876, the department began hiring professional fire fighters. When the department was established, the Lightston Street station was constructed, and functioned as the only firehouse in the community. In 1869, the Empire Firehouse was constructed on Second Street to provide more equipment storage space. The Empire #1 Engine Company and San Jose’s first steam fire engine were housed at this new headquarters.
At first, the Empire Company hauled the two-ton steam engine to fire scenes by hand. In 1871, the City Council authorized the purchase of a driver and a team of horses to be housed in stalls at the rear of the firehouse. The horses’ harnesses were suspended from the ceiling. At the sound of an alarm, automatic springs released the stall doors, and the horses were released to move forward under the harnesses. When the driver seized the reins, the harnesses dropped down onto the horses, collars were fastened, and the horses, engines, and firemen were ready to go within a matter of seconds.
For 23 years, the Empire Firehouse served the City of San Jose, until July 1892, when the station was destroyed by a fire that consumed several blocks of the downtown area.
- View archival images of the Empire Firehouse from History San José’s Collection.