I grew up on Picheloup Place near Fire Station No. 35 on N. Carrollton Avenue. When was it built? Where is the oldest fire station in New Orleans and how old is it? One other question: Where did Picheloup Place get its name?
Engine No. 35 was organized in 1922, but it originally was at 1503 Napoleon Ave. In 1931, Engine No. 35 moved to its new home at 964 N. Carrollton Ave.
The oldest fire station in the city is not active; instead, it houses the New Orleans Fire Department Museum. Located at 1135 Washington Ave., this firehouse was built in 1851 and served the community until 1991 when its crew, Engine No. 23, relocated to new quarters at 2920 Magazine St. In the early days, horses were used to pull the wagons, and Engine No. 23 was the last to trade in its horses for a motorized vehicle in the 1920s.
The museum opened its doors in April 1995, but it currently is closed, except by appointment (call 658-4713). Inside it you can see a watch desk, a steam fire engine built in 1896, a hand pull ladder truck, a slide pole, fire helmets from all over the world and a firefighter's uniform of the type worn when firefighters began to get paid in 1891. There are photos aplenty and all sorts of memorabilia.
In the early days of colonization, settlers often built their houses far apart. If your house caught fire, you either put it out yourself or relied on neighbors to help. As time went on and New Orleans grew, residential and commercial buildings were placed closer together. The risk of fire was great, and if one structure went ablaze, others did, too.
There were two great fires in our city: one on March 21, 1788, and the other on Dec. 8, 1794. In the first, about four-fifths of the colony was in ashes. In the second, more than 200 buildings were destroyed.
As early as 1807, efforts were made to protect the city from fire; residents were required to keep two water-filled buckets on hand at all times. But it wasn't until 1829 that a group of men, all volunteers, joined together under the name of the Firemen's Charitable Association (FCA). Volunteer No. 1 was the first named group incorporated by the state Legislature. Henri Buckman was selected as the foreman and first chartered member of the company. He was still there in 1891, when the paid fire department came to be and the name was changed to the New Orleans Fire Department. Because of his 62 years of service to the FCA, Buckman was officially declared the father of the fire service in New Orleans.
On Dec. 15, 1891, 24 fire companies were organized. Many came later. By 1986, Engine No. 23 on Washington Avenue was still in its original location. All the other original companies had been relocated or disbanded. That year, the department was ordered to lay off 181 people, close down 10 companies and one complete fire district. The laid-off personnel, however, eventually were rehired over a three-year period.
As for Picheloup Place, it was named for Maurice Picheloup, superintendent of the House of Detention, which was built in 1901 and demolished in 1929 to make way for the new Criminal District Court and jail at Tulane Avenue and Broad Street. When the new lockup was built, it was praised for its "humane treating of the inmates," and much credit was given to Picheloup.