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The historic Parque de Bombas: Puerto Rico’s first ever fire station and one of the most recognized buildings in Ponce

David Goran

The Parque de Bombas (Old Ponce Fire Station) is a historic firehouse and one of the most recognized buildings in Ponce, Puerto Rico, built as the main exhibit pavilion for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair. Its name comes from the mobile hand-pumped fire fighting units the building once housed.

Designed and built for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair and by 1885 it had become known as Ponce’s official fire station. Source

Designed and built for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair and by 1885 it had become known as Ponce’s official fire station. Source

 

located in Ponce, Puerto Rico's second largest city. Source

Located in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city. Source

Architect Lt. Col. Maximo Meana of the Spanish Army, who later served as Ponce’s mayor, designed the pavilion. It is mostly made of wood, and it resembles a Gothic castle or a Spaniard mansion of that era. Its colors represent the city, and its unique style represents a progressive and dynamic cultural center.

It is one of Ponce's most visited tourist attractions. Source

It is one of Ponce’s most visited tourist attractions. Source1 Source2

The Madrid-based central government assigned Meana the task of designing and constructing the building. The building was unveiled during the 1882 Ponce World Fair. The festival’s participants used the building as its main pavilion. The first brigade of firefighters to work in the building were stationed there on 2 February 1883. In 1885, the building was dedicated as Ponce’s official firehouse – a function which it served for more than 100 years.

located at the Plaza Las Delicias town square, directly behind the Ponce Cathedral. Source

The building housed the city’s main fire station for many years. Source

The station continued to serve the city of Ponce until 1990, lasting a total of 108 years as a fire station. On that year, the station’s fire-fighting duties were fully transferred to another nearby station, and the building was officially converted into a fire-fighting museum. Tourists will find exhibits of firefighting equipment and memorabilia from the fire station’s distinguished history. Even before its 1990 closure, the station had already become a major tourist attraction, and some of the firemen would give visitors free station tours voluntarily when they were not attending emergencies.

Influenced by Moorish and Victorian architecture. Source

Influenced by Moorish and Victorian architecture. Source

 

Today, the building serves as a museum honoring and commemorating Ponce's firemen. Source

Today, the building serves as a museum honoring and commemorating Ponce’s firemen. Source

It has been heralded both for its historical and architectural roles in Puerto Rican society, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1984.

Model of the historic Fire Station in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Source

Model of the historic Fire Station in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Source

 

listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1984. Source

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1984. Source

 

Various artifacts used by the 1882 fire brigade are on display at the current museum. Source

Various artifacts used by the 1882 fire brigade are on display at the current museum. Source

“This building is a symbol and commemoration of the importance vested by the residents of Ponce in the service, self-denial, and courage of the Ponce Firefighters Corps. It is for this reason that the Ponce Firefighters Corps remains symbolically on this Plaza, in the heart of the city of Ponce.”