This post is an except from a 1978 proposal by Dr. Shirley Zavin, Executive Director of Boston 350. Historic Boston, Inc. has worked tirelessly over the years with developers on this parcel of land that includes the Nawn Factory, Eliot Burial Ground and Eustis Street Firehouse.
The Eustis street Firehouse, the oldest standing firehouse in Boston, was built in 1859 on the site of an earlier Greek Revival firehouse dating from 1829.
The earlier fire house, home of Roxbury’s sixth fire company, had in turn replaced a hearse house serving the Burying Ground. The present brick building, like its predecessor, is two stories high with a pitched roof; it is however, much more elaborately ornamented.
The decorative elements are in a early Victorian Italianate mode; the door and window surrounds of roughly textured granite provide a vivid contrast to the red brick. Ornate S-shaped brackets at the corners support the cornice.
The building was designed by the Roxbury architect, John Roulestone Hall. Ironically, Hall was also the architect of the building at the corner of Summer and Kingston Streets in which the Great Fire of 1872 began; that fire destroyed more than 775 buildings in downtown Boston.
The firehouse was the home of the famous W.C. Hunneman hand engine Torrent #6. Hunneman had begun as an apprentice to Paul Revere; by 1810 he had established a foundry on what is today Hunneman Street, one block north of Eustis. The Hunneman Company manufactured more than 745 engines which were shipped world-wide before it went out of business in 1883.
In 1869 a two-story wood addition was placed at the rear of the Eustis Street Firehouse; its decorative features, however, duplicate those of the brick and granite original. The enlargement was required by the introduction of the larger apparatus, Hook and Ladder 4, also manufactured by Hunneman. The addition was also used as a stable for the company’s horses, previously hired as needed from a nearby livery.
Additional alterations were made to the structure in 1878 when it became the policy of the Boston Fire Department (Roxbury was annexed to Boston in 1868) to have drivers in permanent residence at firehouses.
The upper floor of the wood stable was converted to an apartment for the drive and a private “driver’s staircase” attached to the south side of the building. The firehouse continued to be used until 1916 when the conversation to motorized equipment by the Boston Fire Department made it obsolete.
Between 1926-1954 the building was used as a meeting place by several Spanish-American War Veterans groups who made a number of interior alterations. In 1969 the Boston Parks and Recreation Department filed a request to demolish the firehouse; many voices were soon raised in opposition and the building, along with the John Eliot Burying Ground, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dr. Shirley Zavin from John Eliot Burying Ground Historic District Abstract circa 1978