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The Cortland Fire Headquarters is a recognizable building to someone passing by. The three floored, massive structure is very interesting and somewhat appealing due to the complex design and architecture. The Fire Headquarters was built in 1914, in a predominantly rectangular shape, with a large squared bell tower attached. The yellow faced brick, decorative stonework and the detailed slanted tiled roof, are all features that stand out. On July 12, 1974 the Fire headquarters was deemed a historical building by the National Register of Historic Places. The Fire headquarters remains the city’s central Fire rescue unit and is the only building on the street that remains from its period.

Cortland Fire Headquarters

Cortland Fire Headquarters

Cortland Fire Headquarters Exterior Front Facade

Cortland Fire Headquarters Exterior Front Facade

In 1914, the unity of five local independent companies initiated the creation of the first central fire company in Cortland. These companies included the Water Witch Steamer, the Orris Hose Company, the Emerald Hose Company, the Hitchcock Hose company and lastly, the Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company. These companies decided on constructing one central fire department rather than three independent ones at the time. This meant the location of this station is precise and well thought out in terms of being geographically central to Cortland.

The design of the building is quite interesting, when considering it having a unique shape and remaining functional. The Fire Headquarters was designed by a Syracuse building company called, Sackett and Park. The three-story building has a simplistic, yet functional interior space, which contrasts with the detailed sharp-edged exterior. The combination of the bright yellow clay brick, with the rustic clay roof tiles and dark stone belt courses, really emphasize the architectural design of this building.  The design incorporates Dutch style stepped gables, which is a feature that is uncommon to central New York architecture. The front of the building has three large bay areas, which houses the trucks and equipment needed for active services and calls. The first floor holds majority of the equipment throughout the whole building. The second floor has the sleeping quarters for the on duty firefighters. This floor also has a walk out porch that stretches across the bay doors. Lastly, the third floor is a spacious meeting hall. 

Due to its unique design elements the fire headquarters attracted attention from the National Register of Historic places. On July 12th 1974, it was deemed a historical marker, which is somewhat a tribute to the way in which, this building was designed. In 1976, the Fire Headquarters underwent restoration repairs on the clay tiled roof. This was paid for by Community Development Funds, awarded to the city of Cortland by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

 The Cortland fire department has served and protected the Cortland community for over 150 years. Cortland fire has seen many development changes, from the beginning companies to the unity of one central unit, the fire department has grown and developed into what it is today. This building has been home to these daily heroes since 1914, servicing many calls in this industrial driven town. 

"The History of the City of Cortland Fire Department: Rooted in Tradition." CortlandFire, accessed April 9 2020.

Levy, Steven S.. Cortland Fire Headquarters: National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form. Albany, NY. 1974.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Photo by Elizabeth Wavle-Brown, Assistant Director, Cortland County Historical Society and City of Cortland Historian, © 2017. All rights reserved

Photo by Steven Levy, Division for Historic Preservation, 1973.