Sunday, June 1, 2008

Engine Company 23

My friend Malignant Bouffant, whose Just Another Blog From LA, is self-described as "An (Almost) Daily Mix of Political Reporting, Media Criticism, Pop Culture Updates & Social Commentary, Delivered W/ More Bile, Vitriol, Hatred & Bitterness Than a Chump-Ass Loser Like You Can Take!!" commented about a photo I included in an earlier post.

A glimpse of an abandoned Fire Station in downtown Los Angeles spurred a fantasy of reliving the young punk life I led in New York in the '70's. But here in the '80's M. Bouffant actually experienced my fantasy - his punk band recorded albums in a studio set up in that very building - the audio engineer using the well designed to dry firehoses to acoustically enhance the echo effect.

Intrigued, I started to look for more information about the building. I found the Los Angeles Fire Department's historical webpage that describes Engine Company Number 23, 225 East Fifth Street, in the years shortly after it was built in 1910.

The three story building had room for ten horse stalls, even though the company was intended to be one of the first motorized ones in the department. The luxurious third floor was the chief's suite, and was paneled in Peruvian mahogany and had polished oak floors. I wonder whether it still has its luxurious bathtub and marble shower stall? This would surely rival the Little Tokyo Lofts.

The second floor, where M. Bouffant's band rehearsed, was the captain's quarters, and a dormitory for twenty firefighters. It also had an assembly room and a reading room with built-in bookcases with leaded glass doors.

There were 6 brass poles for the firefighters to slide down to the main floor when responding to a fire.

In 1960, the Engine Company was disbanded and the station was closed. Engine Company 23 re-grouped in 1963, way across town in Pacific Palisades. In 1966 the building on East Fifth Street was designated an historic landmark.

Since that time, it's been used as a location for several films - M. Bouffant mentioned "Ghostbusters," which came out in 1984. Here's the IMDB's list of other films that used Engine Company 23's station as a film or TV location. A made for TV movie starring Richard Rountree can actually be viewed here: "Firehouse" (1973) . There's a great sequence in the opening credits showing the firefighters sliding down the pole and driving the engine out the entrance archway.

I'm sure the building has a much richer history that is yet to be told.

M. Bouffant, this is for you:

Photo from The Los Angeles Public Library's photo collection, dated 1980.


M. Bouffant said...

Thanks!! My busy schedule doesn't allow me to cruise the Internet as often as I used to, so I'm late getting here. I think the part above the roofline in the middle is where the hoses were hung (by the chimney w/ care) to dry.

Mr. Champagne, the studio owner, did show us the third floor, though I don't think too much of the luxury was left. There were other creative types using the bldg. as well in those days, probably under some city program.

Nation of Sheep only cut two songs there, "Reagan" ("Nuke the Kremlin, I'm not there/Brezhnev's concrete in Red Square/Push the button if you dare/Reagan!") & the eponymous* "Nation of Sheep."

That was our total recorded output before band members began dropping like flies (or like Allman Bros., one went out on his motorcycle).

Merci encore.

*At last! I got to use "eponymous" in a sentence!

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Great post, G. Hats off to you.