On top of being absolutely indispensable, firehouses can also serve as historic landmarks, architectural wonders, and prime tourist magnets. Here are fifteen that deserve a place on your travel bucket list.
1. THE DISNEYLAND FIRE HOUSE // ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA
Walt Disney himself used to stay in an apartment complex that was built above this station. Across the country in Florida, Disney World’s on-site fire department uses the company number 71 as a nod to the year in which that park opened.
2. “THE CAVE” // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY
Officially known as “Lexington Station No. 16,” this odd establishment looks like it was built into an existing hillside, Hobbit Hole-style. Instead, according to the city’s official website, the firehouse “is actually a concrete dome covered by earth. The design was selected for its energy efficiency and its ability to remain [at] a steady temperature even if power is lost.” During the construction process, over 500 yards of concrete were used.
3. LIBERTY FIRE COMPANY, NO. 5 // READING, PENNSYLVANIA
Finished in 1876, the station was converted into the Reading Area Firefighters Museum in 2010. Inside, visitors can see artifacts like an 1880s trumpet through which firemen would shout orders at civilians. And firefighting paraphernalia isn’t all that’s on display—the museum also boasts an ostrich egg that was once owned by Susan B. Anthony. In 1985, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
4. BERLIN FIRE AND POLICE HEADQUARTERS // BERLIN, GERMANY
Back in 2004, Germany's capital city gave this facility a vibrant extension. The new segment sits encased in a luminous glass shell coated with red and green plates. These colors weren’t chosen at random: red represents the fire brigade, while green honors the police department.
5. GOTHLAND FIRE STATION // YORKSHIRE, UK
Here’s one for the record books. Gothland fire station is the world’s smallest, with just fifteen feet by twenty feet of garage space at its disposal. As you may have guessed, the place only has room for one truck.
6. FIRE STATION 23 // LOS ANGELES
You can’t throw a rock in the City of Angels without hitting something that’s appeared in at least one movie. This firehouse has been seen in dozens, including Police Academy 2, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Mask. Most famously, the location was used in both Ghostbusters films, providing interior shots for the team’s headquarters.
7. EXCUBITORIUM DELLA VII COORTE DE VIGILI // ROME, ITALY
Thirty feet beneath Rome’s Trastevere district lie the remains of a 2nd century fire brigade—though you’ll need to peek through a grate to look at it. On its walls, ancient graffiti has been found. One such scribbling—evidently left by an unhappy camper—reads (in Latin), “I’m tired, bring in my replacement.”
8. FIREHOUSE NO. 1 // NEVADA CITY, CALIFORNIA
Who’s up for a little slice of history? When this modestly sized station was finished, horse-drawn fire vehicles were still the norm. Completed in 1861, the building remained in use until 1938. Today, it’s a museum which also happens to be one of the former mining town’s most frequently-photographed structures.
9. HOOK AND LADDER 8 // NEW YORK CITY
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
We’ve already talked about Ghostbusters and where the interior shots of the company headquarters were filmed, but what about the exterior shots? Constructed in 1903, the complex now known as “Hook and Ladder 8” sits on the corner of Varick and Moore Streets, and is instantly recognizable to movie fans. Next year, LEGO will be honoring Ghostbusters with a new set based on the building.
10. FIRE MARGREID // SOUTH TYROL, ITALY
Land is at a premium in this agriculturally rich region of Italy. So, when setting up a base for the local volunteer fire department, architects found an offbeat way to avoid wasting prime acreage. Carved into the side of a mountain, the building features three main caverns that are joined via crosscut.
11. CENTRAL FIRE STATION // LVIV, UKRAINE
The Catholic Church recognizes St. Florian as the patron saint of firefighters. Appropriately, his likeness can be seen in the form of a gorgeous statue above the doorway on Lviv’s magnificent Central Fire Station (which was heavily inspired by Roman architecture).
12. FIRE STATION HOUTEN // HOUTEN, THE NETHERLANDS
One doesn’t see a partially transparent fire station every day. Resembling an enormous greenhouse, the structure includes a huge wall that’s covered with paintings made by local children from 22 nearby schools (it was hoped that this would help discourage vandalism). Six fire engines can sit inside.
13. PARQUE DE BOMBAS DE PONCE // PONCE, PUERTO RICO
One of Puerto Rico’s iconic landmarks, this wooden, red-and-black establishment is currently a museum dedicated to Ponce firefighters past and present. A blend of Gothic and Moorish architecture, it started off as a trade fair pavilion that was converted into the city’s designated firehouse in 1885.
14. CREEDE FIRE STATION // CREEDE, COLORADO
A mining company lent Creede’s volunteer fire department the necessary explosives to build their current headquarters … underground. Similar to the aforementioned Fire Margreid, this station consists of various tunnels that lie beneath a local mountain, with just about every truck getting its own private burrow. “It’s a great example of what good people can do when they put their hearts and minds to it,” says Chief Robert Hosselkus.
15. EUSTIS ST. FIREHOUSE // BOSTON
Boston’s oldest remaining firehouse was built in 1859 and designed by architect John R. Hall, who also helped restore the Massachusetts State House dome that same year. After the resident fire brigade left it in 1916, the facility was—at one point—used as a post for Spanish-American War veterans. It’s since been leased out to Historic Boston, Inc. and is now a must-see for tourists and locals alike.