Fire Station No. 6
Fire Station No. 6 was built in 1894 to serve the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. The building is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and is the oldest standing firehouse in Atlanta. As a young man, Martin Luther King, Jr. played basketball behind the firehouse. The station was the first to be integrated with White and Black firefighters working together in the 1960s. The building housed an active Atlanta Fire Department unit until 1991. The fire station now houses a museum on early firefighting history and desegregation of the firefighting forces in Atlanta. The building also includes a gift shop/ bookstore. The National Park Service opens the building when park volunteers are available.
Backstory and Context
Fire Station No. 6 has stood on the corner of Boulevard Street and Auburn Avenue since 1894. The two-story, red brick building opened on May 31st of that year. The need for a fire station is obvious when viewing a map of the neighborhood from 1899; the fire station was one of the only brick buildings, surrounded by several blocks of wood frame structures (see the Sanborn Fire Insurance map picture).
A marble plaque on the building is dedicated to the Board of Firemasters and mentions the mayor, John B. Goodwin, and the chief, W. R. Joyner.
The Atlanta Volunteer Fire Department became the Atlanta Fire Department in 1882, when the City Council voted to pay salaries to its firemen. The first motorized pumping engine was housed at Fire Station No. 12 in 1911 on DeKalb Avenue. In 1914, the city began purchasing uniforms, helmets, coats, and rubber boots for the firefighters. The last horses used to pull fire wagons were retired in 1918.
The first sixteen African-American firemen hired by the city began work at Station No. 16 on Simpson Road in 1963, but worked alone. A few years later, Fire Station No. 6 was the first in the city to be racially integrated; the station closed in 1991.
The museum now occupying Fire Station No. 6 includes an antique fire engine from 1927, an American LaFrance labeled "A.F.D. No. 6." The fire engine, in use until the 1950s, was going to be scrapped but was salvaged. The museum tells the story of how early warnings of fire were transferred by telegraph from numbered call boxes distributed throughout the city. Exhibits on racial and gender integration of the city's firefighting forces also are displayed. The first female firefighters joined the Atlanta FD in 1977.
The National Park Service holds special events in January in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In 2020, Fire Station No. 6 was the site of special programs for children, including arts and crafts, games, a photo booth, and the Park's Junior Ranger Program.
Anderson, Eric. Fire Station No. 6, Tips, Fire Station No. 6, Old Fourth Ward Atlanta, Foursquare City Guide. September 3rd 2017. Accessed February 17th 2020. https://foursquare.com/v/fire-station-no-6/4c44775df97fbe9ac02dbb30.
National Park Service. Fire Station No. 6 - A Brief History, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Georgia. May 19th 2015. Accessed February 17th 2020. https://www.nps.gov/malu/learn/historyculture/fsn6-brief-history.htm.
National Park Service. Fire Station No. 6, 37-39 Boulevard NE, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Georgia. Sign on building.
National Park Service. Fire Station No. 6 - A Brief History, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Georgia. May 19th 2015. Accessed February 17th 2020. https://www.nps.gov/malu/learn/historyculture/fsn6-brief-history.htm
National Park Service. King Holiday Observance Celebration 2020. News release. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Georgia. January 10th, 2020. Accessed February 18th 2020.
Sams, Douglas. Atlanta's Best Architecture - Fire Station No. 6, MLK District. Atlanta Business Chronicle. February 1st 2016.
Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. Edition 1899. New York, New York. Sanborn-Perris Map Company, 1899.