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Note: This a mirror image of the actual building. The large arch is actually on the right hand side of the building. - THE NEW HEADQUARTERS BUILDING-GRACEFUL, SOLID, AND WELL ADAPTED TO ITS PURPOSES IMPERIALLY housed in a building which is the most striking architectural feature of all the city's public buildings, are the chief officers of the Fire Department and their busy lieutenants. Here are the Commissioner with his Deputy and staff; the Chief Engineer with his subordinates; all the central offices of supervision and administration. Here is the reservoir into which flow all the streams of information from the remote parts of the city; the well-spring from which emanate the edicts that make and unmake men and officers, the plans for broadening and perfecting the Department work and all the multitudinous details of administration. The headquarters building is in every detail worthy of the reputation of the great city that caused its erection. It stands on Jay Street, not far from the corner of Willoughby. There is in relation to its style of architecture, that peculiar combination of gracefulness and solidity which characterizes the Romanesque; it is massive, but a contemplation of its chief features leaves no disagreeable impression of clumsiness in the I mind of the observer. The building rises to a height of one hundred and twenty-six feet from the curb; its frontage on Jay Street extends for fifty feet. The materials used in the construction of its facade are red granite from the quarries of Jonesboro, red Lake Superior sandstone. Tiffany brick and terra cotta brick moulding. The roof is covered with Spanish tiles, dark-red in color. The side and rear walls are composed of ordinary brick of the best quality. The building contains a basement and five stories, all of which are fitted up elaborately and with due regard to the uses for which they are designed. The chief feature perhaps of the architectural appearance of the facade is a massive, rectangular tower, which rises from the basement foundation of granite and terminates in a pointed roof some forty feet above the rest of the structure. It is crowned by a flagstaff capped by a huge gilded eagle with outstretched wings. On either side the tower is flanked by turrets of rounded brick which end in sharp projections a short distance above the level of the last cornice. A square doorway supported on pilasters of sandstone pierces the walls of the tower on the first floor; the portions of the next three stories which lie behind the walls of this section of the building are lighted by windows divided by sashes of stone into four rectangular divisions of unequal size. Across the front of the entire structure there extends, above the windows of the fourth story, a heavy stone cornice on which rest the windows of the floor above; these are cut up into smaller divisions than as those below. There is, in the tower just underneath the coping, a circular window, while the space immediately beneath the roof of the main portion of the building is highest by a dormer. At the right of the main entrance a great rounded arch embraces in its segment the whole front of the lower story; it opens into the wagon-room and above it is a great mass of carving and ornamental scroll-work in stone. Intertwined with this are the letters which make up the words "Fire Headquarters." The windows above the arch in the next three stories are divided into double rows by pilasters of brick, which terminate below the cornice of the fifth floor in capitals somewhat resembling the Corinthian. On the extreme right of the structure another turret of rounded brick rises from the base of the second story to a point level with the roof. Wherever possible on the facade, on doorways and window-casings, on cornice and coping and turret, ornamentation has been lavished with a judicious regard for good taste. The interior is scarcely less striking in its appearance than the exterior; the first story is used as a wagon-room and a portion in the rear is divided into stalls. The flooring is of concrete while the walls are finished in enamelled brick. Every appliance is provided for the accommodation of the various vehicles used by the chiefs of the different departments, and the arrangements for the care of the horses are unexcelled. The main entrance, which leads into a tiled vestibule and hallway, is furnished with heavy oak doorways of antique finish; the elevator shaft is composed of iron drill-work. On the front of the second floor are three large rooms of almost equal dimensions; the middle one of these is occupied by Commissioner ENNIS and the other two by his deputy and the Chief Engineer of the Department. In the rear are offices devoted to the use of the Assistant Chief Engineer, District Engineers, Fire Marshal, Inspectors and Assistants. There is also a toilet-room, and a vault for the storage of valuables. All the offices on this floor are finished in antique oak and furnished with every appliance and fitting calculated to promote the comfort of their occupants and facilitate the transaction of Departmental business. The third floor contains the record offices and supply-rooms, a large apartment devoted to the personal use of the Superintendent of Supplies, and a trial-room where delinquent firemen are brought before the tribunal of the Commissioner. The fourth floor is practically one apartment and is used as a training-school, where every facility is afforded the embryonic fireman to acquire all the details connected with his hazardous calling. The fifth floor is used by the Telegraph Superintendent, inspectors, linemen, and all those minor officials whose business it is to keep the wires and electrical appliances of the Department in order. There are also storage and battery rooms on this floor. The basement is occupied by the heating and elevator apparatus. Every story, except the first, is furnished in hardwood, generally quartered antique oak, and the character of the work is such as to reflect the greatest credit upon those who secured its erection and superintended its construction. The building cost $150,000 and was designed by architect Frank Freeman, of New York. - FIRE COMMISSIONER JOHN ENNIS.
It is an ill wind that blows nobody good; so the proverb goes, and that plea can doubtless be offered for "The Big Wind " that blew so hard in Ireland in 1838, that it has never been forgotten. Now one of the good things that this particular wind blew into the world, was an infant that has ever since been known as John ENNIS. It was on Christmas Day, in the County Westmeath, that the infant John first saw the sunlight streaming through the windows of his parents' humble abode. His father, Thomas ENNIS, came to America while John was an infant, and was killed in a railroad accident. The boy attended a private school in Ireland taught by James FEATHERSTONE, a school-master of great renown in the County Westmeath. In the early part of the year 1850, John ENNIS, with his mother, three brothers and a sister came to the United States, and established their first home in the Fifteenth Ward of Brooklyn, and that is his home to-day. As they say in the West, he has " stood in his tracks" for over forty years, and won. The battle of life commenced with him when he went to work at Marshall's rope-walk at the foot of Ewen Street, in the Seventeenth Ward, and " heaved the wheel," from four o'clock in the morning until six at night, for the enormous sum of twelve shillings a week and when Saturday night came received his wages in pennies. When the labors of the day were over, he attended night school in South Second Street, to complete the education which he was so eager to obtain. At the age of sixteen, his mother bound him as an apprentice to Owen THOMAS, a shoemaker, whose specialty was ladies' fine shoes. At the end of his term of service, he went out as a journeyman, working hard, saving his earnings, and advancing step by step, until at the expiration of eight years, he had acquired enough money to start a shoe manufactory of his own at the corner of Lorimer and Withers Streets, in the Eastern District. His venture was successful beyond his utmost expectations, and as the years came and went the building which he occupied became too small, and he removed his business to the more commodious quarters now occupied by him, at No. 790 Grand Street. It was thirty years ago when he began to manufacture ladies' shoes on his own account, and it was about that time that Mr. ENNIS wooed and married Miss Elizabeth GALLAGHER, a very beautiful and accomplished young lady residing in the Eastern District. Five children were born to them, three of whom have died. The living are John ENNIS, Jr., seventeen years of age; and a daughter, who is the wife of Mr. Samuel IRWIN, a prominent citizen of the Eastern District. The political career of Mr. ENNIS began with the passage of the Chapin Primary- Election bill, which after becoming a law resulted in the reorganization of the Democratic party in King's County. He was an earnest worker in the reorganization of the party, and became first president of the Fifteenth Ward Democratic Association, to which office he has from time to time been reelected. He has also been a member of the Democratic General Committee for several years past. The first and only public office held by Commissioner ENNIS is the one-which he now so ably and satisfactorily fills, to which he was appointed by Mayor WHITNEY on the first day of February, 1886. to succeed Richard H. POILLON, whose term of office expired on that date. During the administration of Mr. ENNIS as Fire Commissioner there have been such changes and improvements made as to place the Brooklyn Fire Department, in point of efficiency and equipment, second to none in the world. When he took charge, there were thirty companies, all told. Since that time, by reason of the rapid increase of population, he has deemed it prudent to organize eleven new engine-companies and five hook and ladder companies, so that at the present writing the Department has thirty-five engine-companies and twelve hook and ladder companies in active operation, and four Clapp & Jones and La France engines as reserves. In the early days of his administration. Commissioner ENNIS saw the advisability of disposing of the old style of trucks, and as a result the hook and ladder companies are now equipped with the latest improved Hayes extension ladder trucks, of which two are first-class, weighing five tons each and having ninety-foot ladders; and the remainder, second-class, weighing a little over four tons, and furnished with sixty-five foot ladders. He created the rank of "Assistant-Foreman" in the Department, prior to which time in the absence of a Foreman the company was left in charge of a private. He also increased the number of Assistant Chief Engineers to two, so that Chief NEVINS might have an able, responsible man to assist him in the Eastern as well as the Western District. It was he who took a. very active interest in the erection and final completion of the new fire headquarters on Jay Street, which in point of architectural beauty is a credit to the city of Brooklyn. Recently, owing to the increase of companies, Commissioner ENNIS appointed several new District Engineers, two of them to fill the vacancies made in that corps by the death of District Engineer George A. FROST and the promotion of John H. PERRY, the Assistant Chief Engineer; and the others to fill original vacancies in the extension of the Department organization to ten districts. Each of these districts is now commanded by a District Engineer; and for the full complement of companies in the districts four more new companies are about to be organized; two engine-companies, one truck-company, and a new fire-boat, the. "David A. BOODY." The new boat and the new houses are already under way. Mr. ENNIS is not a member of any secret order or social club. His membership in clubs is confined to the David B. Hill Club, No. 1, of the Fifteenth Ward. He resides at No. 223 Ainslie Street in the Eastern District, and is one of the charter members of the Bushwick Loan and Building Association. His brother, James, has been on the police force for twenty years, for sixteen of which he was a detective-sergeant. He is at present Captain of the Sixth Precinct. There is another brother, Patrick, who has for many years been a clerk in Judge AMES' court in the Eastern District. In boyhood John ENNIS developed traits of character which have made him the prominent man he is of the present day. The education he obtained was acquired while earning his bread by the sweat of his brow. Genial in disposition, conscientious in discharge of his duties. Just and fair in his dealings with his fellow-men, he has placed himself in the foremost rank of the leading men of the present day in the city of Brooklyn. In social and political circles, and in the Fire Department, there is not a man who has ever felt the strong, earnest clasp of his hand, who will not in all sincerity exclaim " May John ENNIS live long and prosper."
Commissioner ENNIS has been the recipient, in times past, of many handsome and valuable mementos. On being reflected for the tenth time President of the Fifteenth Ward Democratic Association he was presented with a valuable diamond stud by the members of that club. On the evening of February 13, 1886. Commissioner ENNIS was one of the occupants of a box at the Lyceum Theatre on Montrose Avenue. The curtain had just been rung down on a fire scene in which he had manifested great interest, when William B. HERSEMAN entered the box and requested the Commissioner to go with him to Turner Hall for the ostensible purpose of deciding a contest then going on at that place. He went to Turner Hall and there found about three hundred citizens of the Fifteenth Ward assembled. He saw no contest going on and was surprised to see so many prominent people collected together, all of whom were known to him personally. His surprise was increased ten-fold when a blue-velvet case was placed in his hands. When he was allowed to open it, he found therein a magnificent badge which cost over $800. The badge is of heavy Roman gold and is in the form of a circle; in the centre is a monogram of red, white and blue enamel. Above and below the monogram in large raised gold letters, faced with blue enamel, are the words " John ENNIS, Fire Commissioner." A laurel wreath made of Etruscan gold adorns the lower part of the badge, and surmounting it is a solid gold eagle with ruby eyes and a two-carat diamond depending from its beak. Set in the circle at equal distances apart are three more diamonds, each weighing two carats. The reverse side of the badge contains this inscription " Presented to John ENNIS, Esq., Fire Commissioner of Brooklyn, by his friends, February 13, 1886." He was again pleasantly surprised on the morning of August 6, 1887, when the first Assistant Foremen appointed to the Department assembled at headquarters and presented him with a valuable gold watch and chain. On the inner case of the watch is inscribed "Presented by the Assistant Foremen of the Brooklyn Fire Department to Fire Commissioner John ENNIS, August 6, 1887. " In February, 1892, the beginning of his third term as Fire Commissioner. Mr. ENNIS was presented by the citizens of the Fifteenth Ward with a handsomely engrossed set of resolutions, mounted in a valuable gold frame. - DEPUTY COMMISSIONER WILLIAM D. MOORE.
A glance at the very busy man who is installed in the Commissioner's room at fire headquarters is enough to assure the visitor that no vegetation will be tolerated in that locality. Deputy Commissioner William D. MOORE is a busy man, not the less so that he finds time to be a very courteous man as well. His office, like all the rooms at headquarters, is fitted for work. not show. Neat, compact, it seems to accord admirably with its occupant. In appearance Mr. MOORE is still a young man, though there is a war record between him and youth. He is not large, but rather above the medium size, compactly put together, and alert In his movements without being nervous. He has regular features, and a mustache shadows a firm mouth and chin. When he speaks, his utterances are in a modulated tone, and under all circumstances he expresses himself clearly and in the choicest English. In conversation, whether upon business or social topics, he looks the person whom he is addressing straight in the eye. and has the happy faculty of being a good listener as well as a good conversationalist. In his business life he has been as straight and unerring as the needle of a compass. The business of the Department, even to the minutest details, is as familiar to him as the alphabet, and that he has been a very valuable man to the Department since its inception, will be corroborated by every Commissioner who has had the administration of its affairs. Mr. MOORE was born in Ireland in the year 1844, and for aught he knows is the lineal descendant of one of the five kings of which Ireland boasts. His mother departed this life at his birth, and her loss has been the one sad vein in his life's history. While yet in infancy his father died, and the helpless little orphan was placed under the care of a guardian, who, in 1850, brought him to the United States. His first home was on Classon Avenue, and it was at the public school on Classon Avenue that the foundation of his education was laid. Subsequently, he went to live in Flatbush, where the greater part of his boyhood days were spent, and it was while living there that he attended the Polytechnic Institute, and completed his education. At the age of fifteen he entered the law office of General CROOKE, at No. 367 Fulton Street. While he was reading Blackstone the Civil War broke out. His love for his adopted country prompted him to enlist in the Thirteenth Regiment of Brooklyn, in which he served for three months. He reenlisted in the Seventy-first New York Regiment for nine months, and, at the expiration of that time, returned to Brooklyn and accepted the position of Chief Clerk in the United States Marshal's office under Anthony F. CAMPBELL. In the latter he found a stanch friend, who placed such implicit confidence in him that not only was he entrusted with all the important papers of the office, but Mr. CAMPBELLs private papers and bonds as well. When Mr. CAMPBELL was appointed Fire Commissioner, Mr. SPARKS was the secretary of the Board The latter resigned his position in 1871. and Mr. MOORE was appointed bookkeeper.' He soon rose to the position of chief clerk and accountant, which position he occupied up to February, 1884, when Commissioner POILLON tendered him the position of Deputy Commissioner in recognition of his long and faithful service to the Department. From that day to the present he has filled this important trust as no other man in Brooklyn, could fill it. In conjunction with Chief NEVINS and one of the surgeons-constituting a Board of Examiners-he passes upon the retirement of firemen on pension. He has a warm spot in his heart for the " old fellows," who, in the early days of the Department when the territories were much larger than they are now and the companies fewer never wavered in discharge of duty, nor asked to be transferred to easy places. There are two incidents in the history of Mr. MOORE-s connection with the Department, of which he has an ever-present recollection, and which he would not forget it he could, and could not if he would. The first occurred in February, 1884. when Commissioner POILLON presented him with the Deputy Commissioner-s badge worn by him while holding that office. That badge he wears today, and it is the one on which he draws his pay. He values it more highly than if it were set with precious stones for the associations connected with the giving and receiving of it will never be forgotten by either party interested therein. The second of these incidents occurred on the morning of July 1 1891. Deputy Commissioner MOORE was in his office on the second floor, when Tommy HEFFERN came up in haste and told him Commissioner ENNIS wanted to see him downstairs forthwith Mr. MOORE had not the faintest suspicion of what he was wanted for, but when he set his foot over the threshold of the front door, (to use an inelegant expression) he began "to smell a mice." There was hardly standing room on the entire floor. Commissioner ENNIS sat at a desk, and about him stood Chief NEVINS, his assistants. Inspector CASSIN, the District Engineers, the Foremen of all the companies and the clerical staff. They were all there except Tommy HEFFERN and he was in the hall peeping through the door of the back room, with his handkerchief in his mouth to keep back a choking sensation in his throat. Commissioner ENNIS advanced toward Mr. MOORE and in a few 'well-chosen words presented his deputy with a gold watch and chain. To say that it was a surprise would not convey the proper idea of Mr. MOORE-s feelings. Those who stood near him saw something in his eyes which betokened tears. For the first time in his life he could not find words to express himself, but the silence was well under stood by all. Some hours after when Mr. MOORE had recovered from his surprise in a measure, he caught Tommy unawares, and to him he said: "You knew all about this?" "I did," said Tommy, "but I had my orders, and if I disobeyed them my liberty would have been jeopardized." The watch was made to order by a celebrated manufacturer. It is a split-second and a little silver-tongued bell strikes the hour, the half and the quarter with exact precision. On the front cover is engraved the monogram of the recipient, and on the inner case are beautifully, engraved these words: "Presented to William D. MOORE, Deputy Fire Commissioner, by the Executive Staff and officers of the Brooklyn Fire Department, as a testimonial of the high esteem in which he is held by them, July I, 1891." Mr. MOORE's appreciation of that watch and chain cannot be told in words. It was received in the same spirit that it was given, and the memories of that occasion as well as the name of every man who participated therein is engraven on the heart of the recipient. Mr. MOORE resides at No. 57 Fort Greene Place, and is a member of the Eleventh Ward Democratic Association, and Post Ricard No. 362, G. A. R. - CHIEF ENGINEER THOMAS F. NEVINS.
The perfect preparation of the Brooklyn Fire Department for effective fire work is a lasting monument to the .fidelity and skill of Chief Engineer Thomas F. NEVINS, for he has been its executive head during almost its entire existence. With the exception of its first year, it has had no other Chief; .and as that year was necessarily occupied in adapting old needs to new conditions, without the possibility of attempting expansion or extended improvement, it is no disparagement to his predecessor to say that the Department as it stands to-day is the creation of Chief NEVINS. Throughout all the changes during the past twenty-two years in the personnel of city officials, of the rank and file of the Department; through all the successively established Boards of Fire Commissioners; he alone has remained at this one post of duty, and has pursued one steady policy of evolving a fire department that should serve as a model for the future. To the members of the Department it must be an inspiration to see how devotion to duty and force of character can raise one from the ranks to the highest office. It may be said of Chief NEVINS that he has always been a fireman ; and he has always been so good a one as never to remain long without advancement. Born in Ireland, in 1843, and removing to this country and city in infancy, he was educated at Public School No. 13, and as a youth learned the trade of a steam engineer in the establishment of John Jackson, on Furman Street. From boyhood he was familiar with fire matters, and availed himself of every opportunity open to a youngster during the breezy volunteer days, of taking part in the duties of the firemen. At the age of eighteen he regularly joined the Volunteer Department, and immediately lent his services to the organization of Hope Hose Company No. 9, of which he was made Foreman, thus rising to the top on the first opportunity, and served in that capacity for five years. At the end of that period the hose-company was, largely through his efforts, re-organized as an engine- company, becoming Engine Company No. 9, and of this also he was made the Foreman, and served until the introduction of the Paid Department, in 1869. At the establishment of the Paid Department, there was no question whatever that this active, wide-awake, skilful and sturdy Foreman was to have high rank in it, and he was one of the original appointees to the office of District Engineer, and was given charge of the large and important district south of Atlantic Street. Here he devoted himself with energy to the task of getting his newly-formed companies well in hand for the work before them, himself setting them an example of courage and vigor in the duty. One year later, on the retirement of Chief Engineer CUNNINGHAM, November 1, 1870, Mr. NEVINS was promptly advanced from the position of District Engineer to the head of the Department. At this time he was only twenty-seven years of age, in the prime of a vigorous, manhood. Six feet in height, broad shouldered, hard muscled, active and erect, he was the ideal of a commander of a body of men devoted to dangerous duty, physically as well as mentally. The popularity of this selection of a new Chief was great, and public appreciation of it was expressed in a serenade tendered by many, prominent citizens, among whom were Thomas KINSELLA, William C. DEWITT, Captain P. K. HORGAN, Police Captain D. FERRY, Excise Commissioner James CORBOY and others. Of the original engineers of the new Paid Department in 1869, a picture of whom will be found at page 68, Chief NEVINS is the only one now remaining in the Department, a fact which illustrates at once his love for the calling and the necessity of his services. On this point, the need the Department had of this Chief- Commissioner PARTRIDGE expressed himself in 1882 at a time when the remuneration of firemen was under discussion: "In regard to the Chief Engineer. I will say that his duties are arduous. He is never off duty when in the city, day or night. He has a gong over his bed and is liable to be turned out five minutes after he has turned in. He is certainly a very intelligent man, and understands the workings of this Department thoroughly and the more I see of him the more I am convinced that it would be a very hard matter to replace him." It was a rare combination of qualities that he brought to his important and responsible office when he assumed it in 1870. He not only was so good at the practical workings of the fireman's business, that a professional companion could say of him, "Taken all in all, he is the best fireman in the United States;" but he possessed also the broader qualities which have lent effectiveness to the purely administrative features of his office. He had in abundant measure all the quickness, courage, vigor and discretion which marks the good fireman; the ability not only to do things but to see what can and what cannot be done, as well as to decide who can best do it, making him a good general on the field; but he had besides, the qualities of a good bureau officer. From the day of his accession to the office Chief NEVINS devoted himself assiduously to the improvement in discipline and general effectiveness of the men and apparatus committed to his charge ; and so immediate and striking were the results, and they were accomplished with such consideration for his subordinates, that on the occasion of his marriage, in 1874, the officers of the Department presented him with a handsome silver service, taking possession of his house for a surprise party, at which they expressed their sentiments of regard in unmeasured terms. But this private recognition had been preceded by a general public appreciation of the fact that new times had indeed come in the Fire Department. After the first sentimental regret over the jolly old volunteer days had subsided, it soon became understood that though there was less noise there was more accomplished. Six months after the accession of Chief NEVINS, the Brooklyn Eagle was prompted, apropos of a recent manifestation of skill, to say: "The Brooklyn Fire Department of to-day is as far superior to the old volunteer force in efficiency and equipment as a steamship to a sailing vessel in speed. At the Prentice fire the other day the saving of the frame cottage on the same block from so fierce a conflagration was a proof of utmost efficiency. Every one who has noticed the speed with which the engines turn out on an alarm being given speaks with wondering admiration of the- perfection of discipline. . . . Even the horses seem to understand their duties with an almost human intelligence. The hose seems to have forgotten how to leak. In the old times the length of hose had at least one big leak and several small ones. Now, every particle of metal work is bright, every length of hose is sound, every man and horse is prompt at his post, fully understands his duty, and almost before the neighbors realize that there is a fire next door to them, the water is on and the fire is got under." Such was the impression made on the public so early as the month of May, 1871. But. after all, it was only the beginning of the better order of things which Chief NEVINS was to develop in after years. To the average man in the community, the great change from the slouchy, unorganized methods of volunteer days must have seemed very like perfection. But the skilled knowledge of the Chief enabled him to detect many particulars in which radical improvement was possible and necessary; and he has educated the public to an appreciation of the better fire-service of to-day which enables every man to see where it is better than that of 1871. An increase from twelve steam-engines and six trucks to 'thirty-four engines and twelve trucks of itself indicates a very considerable labor on the part of the Chief. There were then only nine members to a company as against twelve now; there was in the original outfit of old engines from the volunteer days one " propeller" steamer which soon gave way to the more practicable horse-power; the steamers used to start from the houses with cold water in the boilers, while now the cellar apparatus keeps constantly in the engines a pressure of five pounds of steam. Until the Brooklyn Department began it, no one ever put three horses abreast to a hook and ladder truck. The old leather hose with which the Department started was gradually replaced with canvas and rubber hose, and this was got to the fires on old-time, one-horse reel-wagons, carrying about 600 feet of hose, instead of as now on two-horse hose-wagons with a capacity of 800 to 900 feet of hose. There were then none of the "Siamese connections" for hose, which now combine the streams from several engines into one deluge of water capable of drowning a fire. No fire alarm telegraph then sent its instant messages to the company houses, but the Department depended on the bells from the City Hall, Sixth, Fourteenth and Sixteenth Ward Towers, which gave the Department no earlier or more definite information than the public received. Some of the bells are still rung, but not for the benefit of the Fire Department. The painstaking attention to the details which contribute to celerity in active work is perhaps as clearly illustrated in the rearrangement of the horse stalls in the engine-houses as in any other particular. To save the time it would take a horse to back out from his stall and turn around, might seem to some a trivial matter; but it is by close attention to such apparently slight details that the modern fireman has developed his superiority over his more careless prototype to such an extent that, where the fireman of twenty odd years ago might be said to have operated " like clockwork," his more highly-trained brother of to-day goes "like watchwork." The mere turning of the stalls from their sideway position to one facing front, and bringing the horses nearer the engine, has reduced the best time of getting out of the house in the old days from No. 5's time of ten, nine and one-half and eight seconds, to four seconds under favorable conditions. It was not merely for their comfort, either, that the men were made more comfortable in their quarters with improved beds and bedding. Like a well-groomed horse, a well-housed man can do better work. Six District Engineers and one Assistant to the Chief were enough to direct the operations of the early Department, while to-day two Assistant Chiefs and ten District Engineers are not too many, though each does twice as much work as in the old time. Not because the old-time District Engineer was less active, but because it required experience and an observant Chiefs deductions from it, to detect that a District Engineer needed a wagon ! For some time these battalion chiefs made their way to fires as best they could, and their degree of preparation for efficient work on arriving late at a fire on foot after a two or three mile run, as was sometimes necessary, may be imagined. With the present facilities the District Engineer is on hand -as early as anybody and ready for action. The only wagon in the early days of the Paid Department was the Chief's - and how Chief NEVINS did make it rattle over the cobble-stones ! It is doubtful if a more fearless driver, reckless of his own safety, ever whirled through the streets of any city at any time or for any purpose. He is on record as having driven from South Brooklyn, over the Bridge, to the fire of the Windsor Theatre in the Bowery in sixteen minutes. And it is told of him that once, on his way to a fire, in passing the old headquarters house in Jay Street his horse tried to turn in there while going at full speed, and threw both the Chief and his driver to the ground. The driver fell foul, but the Chief, with characteristic skill and immunity from harm, landed on his feet and like Richard III., cried: " Give me another horse ! " That Chief NEVINS is brave as a lion, every one that ever saw him at a fire knows full well, and, while his bravery seems to the ordinary observer to be that of the reckless man, it is rather the courage of insight and knowledge. Neither he nor the men he has put in a position of danger, have ever been cut off. What the field of battle is to a skilful general the scene of a fire is to this keenly watchful Chief-he knows where the enemy may be attacked to the best advantage and what vantage ground his men can occupy and hold. A good illustration of his superiority in this faculty of seeing what can be done was afforded by his direction of the fire of Dr. TALMAGES' Tabernacle many years ago. Adjoining the burning church was a shed, which seemed to the average spectator a place of especial danger and doomed to go. But the genius of the Chief told him, not only that if it did go the buildings across the street must follow, but also that a determined stand on that very shed would succeed in saving it. When he ordered an engine-company to hold the position, not only did the men hang back, but on-lookers protested against what seemed an order to go to sure destruction; but the instant enforcement of strict discipline, and the courageous example of going himself where he ordered his men to go, enabled the Chief to keep the firemen at this important post and save the fire from spreading. Chief NEVINS is endowed with powers of endurance as well as with great courage. At the Robinson stores' fire, in 1874, he went so boldly about the place that it was said of him that he fairly " ate up smoke," and he kept at it and was on his feet for thirty-six hours continuously. His knowledge of his men, as well as his knowledge of the details of fire-fighting, has stood him in good stead during his long career as a Chief, and has contributed not a little to giving him the well-earned reputation of being one of the very best firemen in the country, if not, indeed, without an equal at the business. It is not a hit-or-miss selection when he orders this man here and that man there, this company to hold this position and that company to do that duty; it is the skilful use of instruments of which he has acquired an intimate and perfect knowledge, and it is his ability to put the right men in the right place that has gone far to demonstrate the fact that he himself is the right man in the right place. To his personal credit there stands a long list of lives saved from flame and peril, and a long series of close shaves in his own experience of fire. But these are regarded by him quite as matters of course in the life of a fireman, and he consents to make very little of them. Perhaps, if any criticism were to be directed at the conduct of the Department it would be in the line of too little being made of actual personal heroism. For while it is true that the brave man is the modest man, and the courageous leader of brave men is modest for them as well as for himself, yet it is none the less true that a considerable part of the satisfaction to be derived from a dangerous calling, like that of the soldier, the sailor, or the fireman, lies in the honor that attends valor shown on the field. It would be going too far to suggest that a more general recognition of heroism would produce more of it. "Noblesse oblige" is a motto that brings a fighter, whether of fire or of a living enemy, face to face with his duty, and he does it without reference to its ever being heard of. But it certainly is a fair part of the reward of heroism that the hero should be "gazetted " for bravery, and that his fellow-men should publicly know of it. The marksmen in the National Guard wear on their coat breasts official recognition of their skill, and the savers of human lives from awful peril and death should be honored in the same way. Chief NEVINS has been from the first a leading member of the National Association of Fire Engineers, for the organization of which he was one of the signers of the original call, in 1873. He became its first treasurer and served it in that capacity for several years. He was the chairman of the committee appointed to consider the adoption of a uniform size and pattern of hydrant and hose couplings. The necessity for this was demonstrated in the disastrous Chicago and Boston fires, when engines coming to the scene from neighboring towns were rendered useless, because their hose could not be fitted to the hydrants. As a result of this committee's report, the uniform couplings were immediately adopted by New York and Brooklyn, and the system spread throughout the country.
In politics. Chief NEVINS has always been a sturdy Democrat. Outside of his professional position he has not sought office, though he was, in 1875, made the unwilling candidate of his party for the office of Sheriff of Kings County. After an exciting election the result went against him by a majority so narrow that a recount was deemed necessary to ascertain the actual facts. As a Chief Engineer he has met with the unqualified praise of his fellow-citizens and his professional brethren. The secretary of the National Association/speaking feelingly of his devotion and constant attendance at its meetings, says: " I consider Thomas F. NEVINS a first-class Chief, a good fireman, and a warm friend, and too much cannot be said in his praise." And the verdict of the "jury of the 'vicinage " is thus expressed in the columns of the Brooklyn Eagle: "Fidelity to the trust reposed in him, cool judgment in the midst of the danger the performance of that trust involves, and high and chivalrous courage in the defence of our property and our lives, characterize Chief NEVINS' performance of his duty." And at another time : " As Chief of the Fire Department of this city, Mr. NEVINS has distinguished himself for courage, presence of mind, skill in the management of men and a delicate regard for the property and rights of our citizens." An expert estimate of his abilities was thus given in a journal devoted to the interests of firemen: "He has managed a great number of fires, notably those in factories and storage warehouses, such as require the highest skill and nerve on the part of a Chief Engineer. He is active, energetic, self-possessed and cool. In the executive management of his office he is prompt and efficient, and has no superior in the discharge of his duties at a fire. Clear-headed and earnest, by his example and efforts he gives efficiency to the entire service." - INSPECTOR CANICE CASSIN.
Inspector Canice CASSIN was born in the County Kilkenny, Ireland, on the 1st of May, 1842. After the death of his father in 1850, he came to this country with his mother, who took up her residence in the Fourth Ward, New York City. Six months later the family moved to Brooklyn and located in the Second Ward, and he was sent to Public School No. 7, in York Street, where he continued his studies until he was eleven years of age. His first start in life was as a clerk in a market at the corner of Concord and Fulton Streets, but the work was not congenial to his taste and he gave .it up to learn the cooper's trade. In 1868 he was appointed keeper in the King's County penitentiary, a position he held under Wardens MCNEELY, CUNNINGHAM and SHEVLIN, until 1873, when he went into the sewing-machine business with his brother. He was a volunteer fireman from 1862 to 1869 and did active duty with Union Engine Company No. 5. On March 3, 1886. Mr. CASSIN was appointed a member of the Fire Department and detailed as secretary at headquarters. On October 4, 1888, he became the first Inspector of the uniformed force, which position he now holds. At the time of his appointment to the office of Inspector, the uniforms of the men were made of all grades and qualities of cloth and their general appearance was anything but creditable. He set about at once to improve the appearance of the men. His first step was to find a contractor who could furnish cloth that was suitable in weight, color and quality, for summer and winter uniforms. Having succeeded in this, a rule was made requiring the tailors who made uniforms to purchase the cloth from the Department supply store. As a result of this new order of things, the appearance of the men has been improved seventy-five per cent in the cut, make and material of their uniforms. A marked improvement in the furnishing of the companies' quarters has also taken place since he took charge of this branch of the Department. The office of Inspector is by no means a sinecure, but rather one which involves many cares and responsibilities. When Commissioner ENNIS created the office and made the appointment he knew that in Mr. CASSIN he had the man with the ability to cope with these cares and responsibilities, and he has since had. ample reason to confirm that belief. Requisitions are made upon Mr. CASSIN for all supplies needed by the companies, and it is he who personally inspects and passes upon all goods furnished by the contractors. Mr. CASSIN ranks as a District Engineer, and at any fire of importance can be found: ready to take an active part in saving life or property. At the Wallabout Market fire, it was he who saved the life of Foreman MURRAY, then in command of Engine No. 10 but now in charge of Hook and Ladder No. 10. He is known in the Department as a very watchful and exceedingly useful man around a fire. Inspector CASSIN is a member of the David B. Hill Club No. 1 of the Fifteenth Ward, and a member and stockholder in the Thomas Jefferson Club. His name is on the membership roll of the Veteran Volunteer Firemen's Association, and the Volunteer Firemen's Association of the Western District. He wears a handsome gold watch and chain. On the inner case of the watch is inscribed, " Presented to Canice CASSIN by his associates of the Fifteenth Ward Democratic Association, July 14, 1888." He has been treasurer of the Fifteenth Ward Campaign Club for the past ten years, and has the reputation of being a first-class collector. Around election time, as he walks through the street, business men who do not affiliate with Mr. CASSIN's party, inquire if he has his "red-book " with him. It means a subscription to the campaign fund every time. His Christian name, Canice, is one seldom heard. It was that of his grandfather who was named after St. Canice, and in the County Kilkenny there is a church of that name. There are those among his intimate friends who insist upon calling him Dennis, and he enjoys the joke. Mr. CASSIN enjoys the confidence of his superiors in rank and the respect of every man on the working force. In a nut-shell, he is a "mighty good fellow." - FIRE MARSHAL BENJAMIN LEWIS.
Fire Marshal Benjamin LEWIS was born in Cardiff, South Wales, about fifty years ago. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy and afterwards commanded one of the large steamers plying between New York and Liverpool. Benjamin did not inherit his father s taste for salt water, except to cross the Atlantic when he was shipwrecked and finally landed in Brooklyn, in 1853. He was then placed in John MURRAY's stoneyard, corner of Columbia and Harrison Streets and remained there until 1858. Owing to the death of his father, he had to pick up his education the best way he could, and attended Evening Public School No 6. Having saved a little money, he devoted the same to pay for a year's tuition at Nugent's Commercial College, corner of Montague and Court Streets. He then went to California and from there to the Indian Territory, remaining among the Apache Indians some eight months, prospecting and mining. It was at this time that he came near losing his life by being stabbed by a skulking Indian in the neck and leg, while he was asleep He wears the scars to this day. Leaving that country, he came back to Brooklyn and accepted a position in the wholesale house of A. T. STEWART & Co., remaining with this firm about eight months. During the war he was appointed superintendent of the Enrolling Department of New York. This position he kept until the war was ended when he engaged in the fire insurance business on Montague Street and under the name of Benjamin LEWIS, Son & FREAR, founded what has become one of the most prosperous insurance houses in Brooklyn. It is now conducted by his son. Mr. LEWIS has built several houses in Brooklyn, among which is the Grand Opera House, and is largely interested in mining matters. He is one of the oldest members of Delta Lodge N0. 451 of Free and Accepted Masons, and presided over their deliberations for five years, and for two years was president of the Masonic Mutual Relief Association. He is also a member of Fort Greene Council, Royal Arcanum, and many other organizations. Mr. LEWIS has been Fire Marshal of Brooklyn about seven years and according to the records has been very successful in having convicted some of the worst class of incendiaries. During the year 1891, by and through his persistent efforts, no less than ten persons confessed to him to having set various places on fire, and are now doing prison service. Mr. LEWIS is often called upon to arbitrate upon differences arising among business men and others, and in all his decisions no one has ever questioned his absolute impartiality. He is a man of strong individuality and executive ability, commanding the highest respect among the thousands of friends and acquaintances which he has in this city, and has been the recipient of many testimonials of their appreciation and high esteem. Mr. LEWIS has many friends who are bound to him by strong ties of gratitude for very considerable favors and services, such as his essentially benevolent nature delights in conferring. No honest appeal for charity or help in trouble that he could give was ever refused. A notable instance of this was in the case of Alfred FOSTER, a tobacconist, who was convicted in a case involving the stamping of cigar boxes. The case was one of peculiar hardship and many influential Brooklynites endeavored to procure a pardon from the President, but were not successful. Mr. LEWIS at last interested himself. in the case, and presented the matter to President GRANT so forcibly that the latter assured him that on confirmation by the Attorney General of Mr. LEWIS's statement of the facts, the pardon should be granted. A few days later an unconditional pardon crowned this benevolent mission with success. Mr. LEWIS is, like many other members of the Fire Department, a life saver, though his triumphs in this line have been over water rather than fire. Fourteen persons, among them Judge Roger A. PRYOR, owe their lives to his bravery and skill in rescuing them from drowning. - ASSISTANT CHIEF ENGINEER JAMES DALE.
James DALE, the senior Assistant Chief Engineer, has been doing fire duty since he was a boy, and has been accumulating experience and honors for the past thirty years. He was born in South Amboy, N. J., June n, 1841, lived in New York after the age of nine and was educated in its public schools. While he was employed on various steamboats on the North River, he joined, at the very early age of eighteen, Hudson Hose Company No. 21, of the New York Fire Department, located on Washington Street, between Reade and Duane. On account of the light water-pressure in that vicinity and the tremendous interests to be protected from fire, the hose-company was, soon after his joining it, organized as Hudson River Engine Company No. 53, and furnished with a steamer, Mr. DALE being made the engineer and holding that position during the whole term of his connection with the company; being, indeed, the only engineer the company ever had. For, as the result of numerous lively and serious collisions between No. 53 and its pet rival, No. 40, located at Broadway and Courtland Street, the services of both companies were dispensed with by the authorities of the Department. About this time the services of a good engineer were sought by Pacific Engine Company No. 14, of the Brooklyn Department, one of the most influential companies in the city, the Foreman of which was Fred S. MASSEY, afterwards president of the first Commission under the reorganization of 1869. MASSEY, EVANS and William A. FOWLER were the committee appointed to select the new engineer, and, having heard of Mr. DALE, they sent word to him to call at the engine-house, in Pierrepont Street near Fulton. When he came, Mr. MACKIN, the waggish member of the company, met him at the door, and learning that he was a candidate for the position, he asked " Are you an engineer?" "Well, a kind of a one," was Mr. DALE's reply. " I guess they don't want you," responded MACKIN; " that's the kind of a one they have got now." DALE was a good fellow as well as a good engineer, and he joined in the general laugh, and then proceeded to show the committee that what he did not know about the duties of an engineer was not worth knowing, and so effectively that they paid him a month's salary in advance of his going to work and regularly increased his pay beyond what the city allowed for that purpose. He took charge of the new steamer January 1, 1865, and continued to care for it until the days of the new Department. The confidence of the Department authorities in this company gave to No. 14 the post of honor at fires and led to its being called on oftener than any other company, even to distant points, which, while it caused some little jealousy on the part of other companies, gave the engineer the best of opportunities for acquiring experience in the management of fires and brought him near to Chief CUNNINGHAM, with whom he became great friends and by whom his quiet suggestions while on duty were almost invariably adopted. When the new Department was organized, and Foreman MASSEY was made Commissioner, Engineer DALE was made Foreman of No. 5, which occupied No. l4's old quarters on Pierrepont Street. The duty during his term as Foreman took his company from the Navy Yard to Gowanus and sometimes to the E. D. but it was performed without a murmur, and so well that when there was a vacancy among the District Engineers, it was given to Mr. DALE, January 18, 1872. His district embraced the whole of Gowanus, the Erie and Atlantic Basins, indeed, all South Brooklyn, and yet he covered it without the use of a conveyance. He did not get a wagon until, when District Engineer FARLEY was laid up with a shattered leg, Mr. DALE offered to cover his district for him, and the double duty which he performed until FARLEY'S recovery rendered a conveyance necessary. Many acts of bravery, coolness and good judgment characterized his service as District Engineer, and on the retirement, August 1, 1890, of Assistant Chief John W. SMITH, Mr. DALE was appointed to succeed him. To this position he brought experience, fidelity, the endurance of a strong man in the prime of life and a degree of devotion to duty which makes absence from it as rare as is compatible with healthy recreation. One of the red-letter days in the year to him is the annual excursion and dinner of the " Lobster Club," of which he is "Chief Lobster," and Mr. W. METELSKI is president. Not long ago Mr. DALE was presented by the members of the club with a handsome badge in the shape of a " lobster" which contains twenty diamonds. - ASSISTANT CHIEF ENGINEER JOHN H. PERRY.
The junior Assistant Chief Engineer is John H. PERRY, whose special jurisdiction is over the operations in the Eastern District of Brooklyn. Chief PERRY is well along in years and consequently in experience, and he is a splendid specimen of the fine, grizzled veteran, combining the best traditions of old times and the best training in the advanced professional knowledge of the present. His sixty years have all been spent in this city, where he was born in 1832. Of that period about forty years have been devoted to fire duty, of which it is doubtful if any member of the Department has seen more than this doughty chief. In his early days he was a member of Protection Engine Co. No. 2, of the Williamsburg Department; but he left this company, together with George H. BENNET, Alfred WALLET, and others, to organize Friendship Hose N0. 3, at one time located in the house on North Third Street, now occupied by him as an official headquarters. It was with this company that Chief PERRY's career as a volunteer fireman was especially identified. He was highly esteemed and trusted by his comrades in the company, and any position in their gift was his to take if he would; but he never would accept anything higher than the position of Assistant Foreman, which he filled most creditably for a long term of years. In 1864, while still a member of Hose 3, he was solicited by his friends to become a candidate for the office of Fire Commissioner; the firemen in those days having the election of these officers. Party feeling ran high, but after a stormy meeting in Firemen's Hall, on South Second Street, during which the lights were extinguished and violence was threatened, Mr. PERRY was elected. Throughout his service in this capacity his sympathy for his old comrades led to his so befriending them in every way that came within the scope of a Commissioner's duty, as to win their respect and regard. But the emoluments of the office consisted only of work and honor, and the particular revolution of the wheel of fortune that coincided with this period of Mr. PERRY's life rendered an income desirable. He therefore resigned the Commissionership and became one of the six bell-ringers who aroused sleeping Williamsburg when a fire broke out, and remained at that duty until the organization of the Paid Department. The pressure for appointments at this time resulted in his displacement; but he had in the then Assistant Chief, John W. SMITH, a good friend and one who knew of his excellent work as a volunteer fireman, and at his instance Mr. PERRY was re-appointed a bell-ringer by Commissioner Worth, in 1882. This was regarded by them all as only a temporary arrangement until the way should be opened for something better; and the opportunity came when District Engineer Charles MCQUEENY of the Third District, after an illness which had kept him from duty for nearly a year, died, and Mr. PERRY was promptly appointed by the Commissioner to succeed him By the necessary transfers Mr. PERRY was then assigned to the Sixth District, where his special familiarity with the affairs of the Eastern District gave the fullest play to his valuable qualities and experience. From that time on, this has been the scene of his labors for the Department. Nothing could be more admirable than his handling of his district, and his reputation as a District Engineer was steadily increased by his course. And when the way became open for further promotion he got it. The retirement of Ex-Assistant Chief Engineer SMITH, and the succession to his office of the present Assistant Chief DALE, left the Department without a superior officer who was resident in the Eastern District. And the rapid and considerable extension of the fire limits with the extraordinary growth of the city not only rendered some such arrangement necessary, but also pointed clearly to the desirability of a second Assistant Chief. After careful consideration of the subject by the Commissioner and approval on the part of the Mayor, the office was created, and District Engineer PERRY was selected to fill it and was appointed on February 1, 1892. The best wishes of the entire Department accompanied him as he assumed his higher honors. ' During his earlier days Mr. PERRY was engaged in the manufacture of fancy soaps, but the unfavorable effect on the business of the war led to its abandonment, and he took to "heaving the wheel" in a Williamsburg rope-walk, where Ex-Assistant Chief SMITH was one of his companions in toil. Later he worked in the Navy Yard in the carpenters department as a ship-fastener, and became so proficient at his duties as to be made foreman, or quarterman. But politics and hard kicking against his good discipline, which was not popular during, war times among the influential appointees of political leaders, precluded the tenure of such a place for a man who had no other view of his duty than to do his work well and make his subordinates do the same. Indeed, until he found himself in a position where " Brooklyn expects every man to do his duty," he never became congenially employed. Now that he is in such a position, however, he takes and gives immense satisfaction in doing his duty right up to the handle. - EX-ASSISTANT CHIEF ENGINEER JOHN W. SMITH.
The career of John W. SMITH, Ex-Assistant Chief Engineer of the present Department and Ex-Chief of the E. D. Volunteer Department, illustrates the truth of the adage that " There is always room at the top ; " for he has generally found his place at the top and kept it, through all his long experience as a fireman. Born in Newburgh, N. Y., in 1834, and educated in New York, where as a youth he was employed in the printing-office of Gordon, afterwards the press-builder, his first connection with fire matters was as a "runner" with Tradesmen No. 12, of the New York Department, where he did his share in the " scrimmages " precipitated by these ardent youngsters. At the age of twenty he joined the Phenix Hose No. 22. In 1856, being employed as a compositor on a Williamsburgh paper, he moved to that city and joined Friendship Hose No. 3, of which he soon became Assistant Foreman. In January, 1862, the Representatives elected him Fire Warden, over the Foreman of one of the largest engine-companies, who had been the nominee of a previous caucus, his election being a factor in breaking up a ring that had controlled the Department. Re-elected in 1865, he was, in 1867, before the expiration of his second term of three years, chosen Assistant Engineer of the Department. In the meantime he had organized Americus Hook and Ladder No. 2, and was made its Foreman. At the annual election of 1868 he was a candidate for Chief Engineer against Rodney THURSBY, son-in-law of Martin KALBFLEISCH, then Mayor of Brooklyn, and a good deal depended, politically, on the election of the latter; but SMITH was elected Chief by a majority of fifty votes. This made him ex-officio member of the Board of Estimate of the city, during the year that ensued previous to the organization of the Paid Department in 1869. One of the first acts of the Commissioners of the new Department was to appoint John CUNNINGHAM Chief Engineer and John W. SMITH Assistant Chief, in May, 1869, five months previous to the appointment of the rest of the Department. Assistant Chief SMITH had hard work to cover the Eastern District with inadequate means, and in the occasional absences of the Chief he was in charge of the whole Department. Some painful accidents fell to his lot. fall through a hatchway at a fire in HARDENBURGH's carpet store in December, 1883, laid him up for three months. Another two months off duty was the result of a twisted leg and sprained ankle caused by his being thrown from a ladder at a car factory fire in April, 1890. This last accident satisfied him that it was time for him to relinquish the active duties of his position to a younger man, and about this time he was offered the position of inspector of fire appliances, fire patrols and water supply in the United States, for the National Board of Fire Underwriters; so after a month's furlough from duty, he was honorably retired from his position as Assistant Chief Engineer, August 1, 1890. The appreciation in which he was held by his comrades in the Department was evidenced by the presentation to him, by a subscription headed by Chief NEVINS, followed by every member of the Department, of a magnificent service of silver, accompanied with a handsome set of resolutions, which were-formally handed to him during a testimonial dinner at the Clarendon Hotel, in 1891. As Inspector for the underwriters he visited every important city in the country, about one hundred and twenty-five in all, and his reports were exceedingly valuable. His report on New Orleans, in the words of a prominent underwriter, "went to the bottom of the whole subject," and resulted in the adoption there of a paid Department. The amount of travel involved in this duty, however, proved more than, at his years, was advisable, and in December, 1891, he tendered his resignation, which was accepted by the underwriters with great regret.
Transcribed for the Brooklyn Pages by Mimi Stevens BROOKLYN FIRE DEPT. Chapter 7 Back To HISTORY of the BROOKLYN FIRE DEPT. Index Back To FIRE Index Back To CIVIL Index Back To BROOKLYN Main