No organized fire protection system existed in Honolulu until November 6, 1850, when the city’s first volunteer fire brigade was formed.
On December 27, 1850, King Kamehameha III established by ordinance in the Privy Council creating the Honolulu Volunteer Fire Department; the 1851 legislature enacted the ordinance into law.
In August 1851, a second-hand fire engine was purchased through public subscription and became the property of Engine Company No. 1.
Within ten years, the city had four engine companies, including No. 4, which was composed exclusively of Hawaiians. Kings Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V and Kalakaua were all active members of this company. (NPS)
In 1870, the tallest structure in Honolulu was the bell tower of Central Fire Station, then-located on Union Street. Spotters would sit in the tower, ready to sound the alarm. (HawaiiHistory)
In 1897, Central Fire Station was relocated to its present site at Beretania and Fort Streets, a consolidation of Engine Companies 1 and 2.
“The city of Honolulu is protected from fire by a very efficient department. The central fire station is not only an ornament to the city, but contains all the necessary conveniences for its intended purpose.”
The 2½-story blue stone Central Fire Station was one of three stations at the time; the others were the 2-story wooden Makiki Station and the 2-story brick Palama Station.
There were 200 3-way standing and 50-ground hydrants distributed throughout the City. Plans were underway for a fire alarm telegraph system with 65-alarm boxes. (Report of the Governor of the Territory of Hawaii; to the Secretary of the Interior, 1901)
The Central Fire Station soon became outmoded. The Romanesque Revival rock structure was replaced in 1934 by a Dickey designed Moderne/Art Deco two-story reinforced concrete building (Kohn M Young was the engineer.) It previously served as headquarters for the Honolulu Fire Department.
The building is five bays wide and dominated by the three middle bays with their one-and-one-half story Art Deco aluminum doorways which were constructed by the California Artistic Metal and Wire Company of San Francisco.
Above the doors are aluminum panels with linear designs with an octagon in the middle containing the letter HFD. Above each panel is a set of four windows.
The end bays each contain a first story window and a set of three second story windows. All second story windows are jalousies, and the first floor windows are tinted plate glass.
A decorative belt course bands the top of this flat roofed building. This banding employs the octagonal HFD motif of the door panels. An abbreviated tower of approximately thirty feet rises from the roof at the rear of the right bay. This tower has a pair of long rectangular louvers running its height.
In 1949, a one-story hollow tile addition was erected at the rear to provide additional office space. The Ewa (northwest) side of the building features a balcony with geometric deco decoration. Behind the balcony is a set of three windows with rectangular pillars between them. (NPS)
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