by Kevin Walsh

I was lollygagging around the 3rd Avenue-Gowanus area in Brooklyn on Thanksgiving Day 2021 when I chanced upon one of the last Mohicans of firefighting, a high pressure fire hydrant, thicker than the usual type (so much so that reportedly the FDNY called them “stubbies.”) They’re quite different from the usual “O’Brien” model hydrant that has been ubiquitous on city streets since the 19-aughts.

Stubbies were hooked up to high pressure water sources and were meant to battle especially hot conflagrations. They weren’t installed all over town…just in downtown Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and Coney Island, of all places; in the 1910s, there were still numerous wooden amusements and even hotel buildings that went up like blazes from lightning strikes or flicked cigarettes. Instead of the usual two nozzles, Stubbies had four. They were installed until the 1930s when better water systems and pumping technology made them obsolete.

For decades, the city left them in place because they were handy dandy ways to collect revenue from parking tickets; finally, the city decided to uproot them in the mid-1990s. However the city missed one or two, like this one at 3rd Avenue and 18th Street underneath the Gowanus Expressway viaduct. From the looks of things, it’s been in retirement for a number of decades.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Patrick February 3, 2022 - 6:55 am

There were two high pressure pump buildings that I know about. One on West Broadway in Tribeca and one in Downtown Brooklyn maybe Joralemon Street? Was there another high pressure pump building in Coney Island? Makes sense because of the amusements and hotels and such.

Patrick February 3, 2022 - 10:00 am

Sorry to reply to my own thing. West Broadway was a repair shop, not a pump station. This building is still there.

Manhattan Pump buildings had two. One on Gansevoort Street and one on Oliver Street. Joralemon Pump station still exists at Joralemon and the BQE. As does Coney Island at 23rd and Neptune.

Dr. A. J. Lepere February 13, 2022 - 10:14 pm

There was a pumping station on Neptune avenue in Coney Island next to Mark Twain Junior High School between West 24th and West 23rd street on the north side of the street. When I was a child there it struck me as being from the 1920’s.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.