Parque de Bombas
Parque de Bombas de Ponce
Parque de Bombas firehouse museum
Location of Ponce and the Parque de Bombas in Puerto Rico
|Location||Plaza Las Delicias
Ponce, Puerto Rico
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Maximo de Meana y Guridi|
|Architectural style||Gothic Revival, Victorian, Moorish Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||84003150|
|Added to NRHP||July 12, 1984|
|Location||Plaza Las Delicias,
Ponce, Puerto Rico
|Owner||Autonomous Municipality of Ponce|
The Parque de Bombas (English: firehouse) is a historic firehouse building in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It is one of Puerto Rico's most notable buildings, with some considering it "by far the most easily recognized landmark in the Island." It is located at the Plaza Las Delicias town square, directly behind the Ponce Cathedral. The building housed the city's main fire station for many years, and it is now a museum. Its name comes from the mobile hand-pumped fire fighting units the building once housed. It has been heralded both for its historical and architectural roles in Puerto Rican society. It was Puerto Rico's first ever fire station. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1984.
The structure was built as the main exhibit pavilion for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair. A Spanish Army soldier, Lt. Colonel Maximo de Meana y Guridi  who happened to be a professional architect, was commissioned in Puerto Rico at the time. The Madrid-based central government assigned Meana the task of designing and constructing the building. The building was unveiled during the 1882 Ponce World Fair. The festival's participants used the building as its main pavilion. The first brigade of firemen to work in the building were stationed on 2 February 1883.
Major fires took place in the city on February 27, 1820, and again in March 1845. Meana became mayor of Ponce in 1882, and in 1885, the station went on to become Ponce's official fire station. Thus every firefighting operation in Ponce and adjacent towns was dispatched from the Parque de Bombas.
The "El Polvorin" fire
On January 25, 1899, a large fire (later dubbed "El Polvorin") threatened the lives of Ponceños, as well as the economy of Puerto Rico as a whole, given Ponce's de facto role as Puerto Rico's banking and agricultural capital. A painting inside Parque de Bombas commemorates the heroic acts of seven valiant "bomberos" and a civilian who fought bravely against the voracious fire that threatened the region. Disobeying orders from the American troops that had recently taken control of Puerto Rico, the group was able to appease flames that had started inside the U.S. Army’s gunpowder reserves. Due to their courageous efforts, disaster was narrowly averted. For their success, the group was honored many times both in Ponce and the rest of Puerto Rico. A few yards from Parque de Bombas, on Plaza Federico Degetau, sits an obelisk to their memory, and at the Cementerio Civil de Ponce (Ponce Civil Cemetery) a mausoleum was erected in 1911 to their memory where all seven heroes were eventually interred. Later on, the Parque de Bombas building was painted in Ponce's traditional city colors, red and black. A series of homes built a few years later for the firefighters and their families on 25 de Enero Street were also painted in these colors also.
Turned into a museum
The station continued to serve the city of Ponce until 1990, lasting a total of 108 years as a fire station. On that year, the station's fire-fighting duties were fully transferred to another nearby station, and the building was officially converted into a fire-fighting museum. The architect in charge of its restoration was Pablo Ojeda O'Neill. Nowadays, a photo of the 1883 firefighters hangs on the walls of the Parque de Bombas building. In 1983, the 100th anniversary of the brigade's victory over the infamous fire was commemorated at the station. Various artifacts used by the 1882 fire brigade are on display at the current museum. Among these are some artifacts used to combat the 1883 fire. There are also artifacts of historical significance. Even before its 1990 closure, the station had already become a major tourist attraction, and some of the firemen would give visitors free station tours voluntarily when they were not attending emergencies. The Ponce firefighters' museum is still known generally as Parque de Bombas and, according to some estimates, it is one of Ponce's most visited tourist attractions.
In 1820, two great fires affected the city of Ponce. One destroyed great part of the center of the city; and the other gutted 80% of Ponce's port zone, paralyzing all commercial trade to the southern section of Puerto Rico. Because of this problem and public concern, in 1853, a voluntary but official firemen service was created for the urban area of Ponce. It was named the Municipal Firemen Service Force. Its mission was to fight and prevent fires.
During the month of July 1882, Ponce was the center of attention in Puerto Rico, as an important Exhibition Trade Fair was being celebrated. The main exhibit pavilion, dedicated to agricultural and industrial exhibits, was commissioned to Maximo Meana, Lieutenant Colonel of the Spanish Militia, and later, Mayor of the city. The Moorish influence is manifested immediately for its basic rectangular plan with towers at its front corners: the active facade ornamentation, its long and narrow windows with fans at its top, its bright colorful paint application, among others, typifies a strong Moorish influence. In 1885, the building was dedicated as Ponce's official firehouse. In 1920, it was used briefly as the Mayor's office as a result of the earthquake that affected the city during that year.
Since 1885, Parque de Bombas has been, and it is, an important cultural institution in Ponce. Its colors represent the city, its unique style represents a progressive and dynamic cultural center. The Banda Municipal de Ponce (formerly, the Fireman's Band), originally played weekly concerts from an open second floor stage attached to Parque de Bombas, now continues its plays every Sunday evening. Called "Retretas", they are part of a cultural program and tradition of the city of Ponce. The structure’s extremely unusual format represents the brave firemen of Ponce, and its history. An inscription at Parque de Bombas reads,
"This building is a symbol and commemoration of the importance vested by the residents of Ponce in the service, self-denial and courage of the Ponce Firefighters Corps. It is for this reason that the Ponce Firefighters Corps remains symbolically on this Plaza, in the heart of the city of Ponce."
In 1943, the Firemen Services of Puerto Rico was created by legislation. Its main commitment is to extinguish fires, prevent fires, rescue services in natural disasters or emergencies, and to service the community.
The basic plan of the Parque de Bombas is a typical rectangular Moorish structure with influence of the Gothic Victorian style, measuring 65'-8" in width by 26'-3" in length. It is two stories high with a tower at each corner of the front facade (Marina Street).
The building is located in the city's central "Las Delicias Plaza" and it is attached to the Cathedral of Ponce at its rear boundary. Structurally, it is a wooden frame building with a pitched roof covered with galvanized zinc sheets. Exterior cladding is horizontal 1" by 6" wooden siding. Doors and windows are wooden. The windows are of the fixed louvered type, long, narrow, and crowned by an oversized fixed fan light.
The Moorish and Gothic Victorian influence is manifested immediately for its rectangular plan with towers at its front corners; its decorative composite curved moldings which follows the contour of the roof overhang throughout the entire structure; its colorful paint application (the building is painted in horizontal bands following the exterior cladding alternating Ponce's official colors, red and black; the interior is also painted very colorful, alternating vertical bands of red and orange that decorates the walls and a painted frieze with fireman's motif culminates the interior wall decoration); and the use of long and narrow windows with fans at its top; among other details typifies a Moorish style.
The building's layout is a large, central space, flanked by two lateral towers, two stories in height, which opens to the main central area. The main central area is used as garage facilities for the fire trucks, and the two lateral towers are used as living quarters and exhibition areas. An elegant central two-sided stairway with elaborated cast iron railing leads to a mezzanine area used as administrative offices. Some interior partitions were removed from the first floor when the structure was altered for its new use as a firehouse in order to accommodate the machinery. The building has been kept in good condition throughout the years.
The Parque de Bombas building is located in what is known in Puerto Rico, Spain, and most of Latin America as a town plaza. A town plaza's layout usually includes water fountains, trees, benches, and walkways flanking a catholic church. The Parque de Bombas itself is adjacent to Ponce's Roman Catholic cathedral.
The station-turned-museum reflects the architectural style of 1880s Spain. It is mostly made of wood, and it resembles a Gothic castle or a Spaniard mansion of that era. The station is painted with red and black stripes. Two stairs that are located on opposite sides highlight the entrance to the museum. Tourists can observe firefighting technology on the building's second floor.
Homage to firefighters
The city erected a monument at Cementerio Civil to the memory of its firefighters. The inscription at the entrance of the monument reads as follows:
- Monumento a los heroes de El Polvorín (obelisk)
- Monumento a los heroes de El Polvorín (tomb)
- Parque de Bombas
- Calle 25 de Enero
- Ponce High School
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- Armando Morales-Pares, State Architect, and Abelardo Gonzalez-Architect, State Historic Preservation Office, May 23, 1984. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form - Parque de Bombas de Ponce - (Ponce Firehouse). United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 3. Listing Reference Number 84003150. July 12, 1984.
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- Accessed March 2, 2011.
- Armando Morales-Pares, State Architect, and Abelardo Gonzalez-Architect, State Historic Preservation Office, May 23, 1984. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form - Parque de Bombas de Ponce - (Ponce Firehouse). United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 2. Listing Reference Number 84003150. July 12, 1984.
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