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Vintage Firehouses - Engine Company No. 31:
Engine Company No. 31
Engine Company 31 in 1915

Engine Company No. 31 - 1908
1088 Green Street (mapped location)

San Francisco Official Landmark 220 

National Registry of Historic Places No. 87002290 

Neighborhood: Russian Hill

Company History:
1908   Engine Co. No. 31 re-activated after being disbanded on April 23, 1906
1919   Converted to motorized apparatus
1952   August 7th, Company deactivated and placed out of service, budget cuts
1959   Sold at the City & County of San Francisco public auction for $17,500

After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, Newton J. Tharp was named city architect and was charged with rebuilding city government buildings.  He designed this firehouse along with a number of Beaux Arts-style firehouses.  Located on top of Russian Hill, this firehouse was designed to conform to the neighboring architecture and is the only firehouse of the Tudor Revival and Craftsman styles.  During the horse drawn era, the Department chose to build their firehouses at the top of the City's many hills as it was quicker to respond to fires that were “downhill.”  To get the four ton steam engine back to the firehouse took time.  All San Francisco steam engines and trucks were drawn by a three horse hitch, and at times the double horse team from the hose wagon was also hooked up to the steam engine, making a five horse team.  Even with five horses, the return trip up the hill to the firehouse was often difficult.  On the steepest return up Leavenworth to Green Street, there was a mechanical pulley system to move the steam engine up the hill.  In 1918 the company received a 1917 American LaFrance Type 45, registry #2623, chain drive 6 cylinder 120 HP engine with a 900 GPM rotary gear pump and hose wagon and the horses were retired.  In 1952, and the Company was deactivated and the firehouse was closed.

In 1959, philanthropist Mrs. Louise M. Davies bought the firehouse at a sealed bid City surplus property auction for $17,500.  Mrs. Davies had the communications area on the main floor remolded into a sitting room that featured the 1855 Knickerbocker No. 5  hand engine and other fire memorabilia.  The wooden apparatus floor was used for social receptions, banquets and dancing.  The upstairs dormitory and officer's rooms were converted into living areas.  Mrs. Davies, an Honorary Chief of Department, often opened this firehouse, her city home, to neighborhood associations and charitable organizations for fund raising events.  During the 1970's and 80's, Mrs. Davies hosted many fund raising parties for the SFFD Museum in this firehouse.  In 1978, Mrs. Davies donated the firehouse to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  In the 1998, the Trust sold the firehouse to the Scottish American St. Andrew's Society.

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