Monday, May 23, 2011

Pumping Station Signage

Recently, we looked at the demise of the Gansevoort Pumping Station, later the home of Premier Veal, in the Meatpacking District. It's being demolished to make way for the new Whitney Museum. In the process, we noted that the signage for the pumping station had been removed. Some readers wondered if it had been scrapped or sold as salvage.

Graham Newhall from the Whitney's press office wrote in with the good news that the museum donated the signage to the FDNY.

Damon Campagna, photo by Graham Newhall

Said Mr. Newhall, "The Whitney was eager to find a home for the pumping station sign because of its antique charm and its significance as a souvenir of the neighborhood’s past. Luckily, after a long search, the museum was able to arrange for the sign to be taken by the FDNY with the plan that it be displayed eventually at the FDNY’s own museum."

photo by Graham Newhall

The signs turned out to be too big and heavy for the museum to display, and they were transported instead to the FDNY training facility on Randall’s Island, otherwise known as "The Rock."

According to Damon Campagna, curator and director of the New York City Fire Museum, "The sign consists of five concrete tablets, each weighing at least 300 lbs. apiece." At The Rock, the tablets "will be restored and most likely integrated with an existing sculpture garden/picnic area where other FDNY artifacts and artwork are displayed."

The training facility is a secure area, so visits would be restricted.

photo by Graham Newhall

I asked Mr. Campagna about the historic value of the signs. He told me, "The High Pressure System is a prominent symbol of the FDNY’s continuous effort to push the frontier of firefighting technology. The system protected the citizens of this city from destruction and loss of life for over half a century. This particular station took a critical role in extinguishing both the infamous 1911 Triangle Waist Company Fire and the 1912 Equitable Fire as well as countless others."

"The High Pressure System was shut down in 1953 due to maintenance concerns about age and that pumping technology on fire engines had matured to the point to make the system obsolete. There is one last pump building standing on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights which has been converted to residences. The rest have been razed. There was a separate HP station built expand the system to Coney Island about 30 years later. This still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places due to its architecture style. Some of its ornamentation has been stripped and is (evidently) on display in the Brooklyn Museum."

photo by Graham Newhall

No other parts of the Gansevoort pumping station will be preserved--none of its original equipment remained after the FDNY moved out in the 1950s.

Said Mr. Newhall at the Whitney, "Renzo Piano was especially concerned with creating a building appropriate to its milieu and sensitive to its surroundings, but it was determined not to try to incorporate aspects of the old building in the design for the new one."

Veal & Pumping


Adam Rabasca said...

It is so intriguing to wander through the city and observe the signs, pondering the history of their existence.

Anonymous said...

The pegasus sculptures that were designed to flank the doorway of the Coney Island High Pressure Pumping station are on currently on display in the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden of the Brooklyn Museum.

Stanley Greenberg said...

The pumping station in Coney Island is still there, on Neptune Avenue between West 23 and West 24 Streets.