The Plaza Firehouse was the first building to be constructed by the City of Los Angeles for housing fire fighting equipment and personnel. The City Council hired architect William Boring to design a structure which was built by Dennis Hennessy. Boring’s design followed closely a fashion then-current in his native Illinois, with the horses stabled inside the station, as was the custom in colder climates. A unique turntable in the floor made it unnecessary to back the horses in or out. Construction began in May of 1884 and was completed by mid-August. Firehouse No. 1 opened for business in September that same year.
Before long, the City’s ownership of the site was in dispute. Mrs. L.M Bigelow and Griffin Johnston claimed that the site belonged to them, and in early 1891, the Supreme Court decided in their favor. The lease with Mrs. Bigelow expired in 1897 and the City decided to build all future stations only on municipally-owned land, thus ending the Plaza Firehouse’s life as a fire station. By then the Plaza area and Los Angeles Street had become the heart of the City’s original Chinatown. Over the next sixty years, the Plaza Firehouse was partitioned and used variously as a saloon, cheap boarding house, cigar store, poolroom, and allegedly, a house of ill repute. In 1953, the State of California joined with the City and County of Los Angeles to create El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, of which the Plaza Firehouse was to be a part. The State purchased the building in 1954 and began the process of restoring the structure and installing firefighting equipment and memorabilia.
The Plaza Firehouse was dedicated as California Historical Landmark No. 730. It was the first building in the Monument to be restored.