Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed highlights a Bay Area location with a secret past. Maybe it's no longer there, maybe it's been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in Bay Area history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.
The San Francisco Fire Department dates back to earliest days of the city, founded in 1849 after a massive Christmas Eve fire destroyed 50 buildings in fledgling San Francisco. Originally all volunteer, the official city fire department was founded in 1866 and has grown to include 44 stations throughout the city. One of those stations, Engine 39 on Portola Drive, used to boast a pretty darn impressive garden behind the station house.
Engine Company No. 39 was formed in 1908 at a station on Geary Street, but was relocated to Portola Avenue in Miraloma Park in 1923. The original station was made of brick and featured a massive tower, made even more imposing since there weren't many other buildings nearby. Houses were soon built up around it, but the fire station maintained a larger lot on the block. Behind the firehouse was a massive garden, planted and maintained by the firemen. Complete with terraces, radiating planting beds, and a cool hedge spelling out 'SFFD', the station's garden was really something to behold.
In 1955, the station was heavily remodeled - the tower was removed and the whole building was covered in stucco. It's been changed again since, with different window openings and a sign ledge added above the garage doors. Somewhere along the line the garden was planted with big trees, so the terraced plots are no more.
· Engine Company No. 39 [Guardians of the City]