ACTIVE FIRE FACILITY

59 Fenway, Back Bay

Fire Alarm Office

The Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay, circa 1930.
The Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay, circa 1930.

The Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay, circa 1940.
The Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay, circa 1940.

The Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay, circa 1952, in service since 1925.
The Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay, circa 1952, in service since 1925.

The Fire Alarm Office front facade, with the Inscription visible, circa 2008.
The Fire Alarm Office front facade, with the Inscription visible, circa 2008.

The interior of the Fire Alarm Office in 1951.
The interior of the Fire Alarm Office in 1951.

HISTORY

The Fire Alarm Office (FAO) was opened at 59 Fenway on December 27, 1925, having moved its operations from Fire Headquarters at 60 Bristol Street in the South End. The site at 59 Fenway is on state-controlled parkland. A special act of the Legislature permitted the FAO to be built here.

The FAO is located at 59 Fenway, near the intersection of Westland Avenue and Hemenway Street, in the Back Bay section of the city. Fenway is a circular roadway extending around the 'Fens' section of river and parkland near the famous Fenway Park.

The building was designed by Richard Shaw of the firm of O'Connell & Shaw, of Boston, and built by the Thomas D. O'Connor Co. The cornerstone was laid in July, 1924 and was dedicated in September, 1925. The exterior is variegated Indiana limestone and the design is Italian renaissance. An inscription on the front fašade of the building reads:

ERECTED BY THE CITIZENS OF BOSTON TO FORTIFY AND EXTEND THE PRINCIPLE OF ORGANIZED RESISTANCE TO THE SCOURGE OF FIRE, CONSECRATED AND DEDICATED TO THE SERVICE THROUGH WHICH THIS PRINCIPLE IS SO NOBLY PERPETUATED.

Boston is the site of the first municipal fire alarm system in the world. It was invented by Dr. William Channing and Professor Moses Farmer and has served in continuous service since the first 'Alarm of Fire' was transmitted on April 29, 1852.

All fire alarm circuits along with radio and telephone communications for the Boston Fire Department are controlled from this site. The building has an independent generator to provide electrical power in the event of power disruptions.

The first Alarm of Fire to be transmitted from 59 Fenway occurred two minutes after the office commenced operations. On December 27, 1925 at 8:02 AM, Box 2328 was transmitted, Box Location: Westland Avenue Opposite #41.

A brief history of the Fire Alarm Offices (FAO):

  • 4/28/1852 at 12:00 noon, FAO at Court Square and Williams Court (now Pi Alley) opens. (current site of the Kirstein Business Branch of the Boston Public Library),
  • 4/29/1852 at 8:25 PM, first alarm transmitted for District 1, Box 7, Cooper Street Church (is currently Box 1212, Cooper & Endicott Sts.).
  • 12/21/1865, at 9:45 PM, last alarm sent from the Court Square FAO.
  • 12/26/1865 new FAO opens at top floor the (Old) City Hall, 45 School St. (100 ft. away)
  • 12/30/1865 at 10:08 PM, first alarm transmitted for Box 127 at Goddard and E Streets, South Boston.
  • 5/19/1895 at 7:52 PM, last alarm sent from the City Hall FAO.
  • 5/20/1895 new FAO opens at 60 Bristol Street, South End.
  • 5/20/1895 at 5:53 PM, first alarm transmitted for Box 263 at Centre and Day Streets, Jamaica Plain.
  • 12/27/1925 at 6:35 AM, last alarm sent from Bristol Street FAO.
  • 12/27/1925 at 8:00 AM, new FAO opens at 59 Fenway, Back Bay.
  • 12/27/1925 at 8:02 AM, first alarm transmitted from Box 2328, Westland Avenue Opposite #41, Back Bay.
  • FAO at 59 Fenway remains in service (Box 12-1591 is assigned).
1928 map shows the location of the Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay.
1928 map shows the location of the Fire Alarm Office at 59 Fenway, Back Bay.

Aerial photo of the Fenway area shows the location of 59 Fenway, outlined in red, in 1925.
Aerial photo of the Fenway area shows the location of 59 Fenway, outlined in red, in 1925.






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