Parque de Bombas de Ponce~Old Ponce Fire Station

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The setting of my historical novel, A Decent Woman is the colonial city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, which also happens to be my hometown. During the coming weeks leading to the book launch in March 2105, I’d like to share photographs and the history of a few of my favorite places in Ponce’s historic district. I hope you will enjoy this virtual tour!

The Parque de Bombas de Ponce (Old Ponce Fire Station), one of the most iconic buildings in Ponce, is located in Plaza Las Delicias. It was designed by the architect, Lt. Col. Maximo Meana of the Spanish Army, who later served as Ponce’s mayor, and it was built as the main exhibit pavilion for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair. In 1885, the building was dedicated as Ponce’s official firehouse–a function which it served for more than 100 years, and was decomissioned in 1990. The woodframe, Victorian Gothic structure is painted in red and black stripes, and exhibits a Moorish influence.

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Inside the Parque de Bombas, you will find exhibits of firefighting equipment, photographs, and memorabilia from the fire station’s distinguished history, including a painting honoring the seven “bomberos”, firefighters, and one civilian, who helped save Ponce during the great fire of January 25, 1899. These brave men became heroes of Ponce after the large fire (later called “El Polvorin“)  started inside the U.S. Army’s gunpowder reserves, and threatened the city. The “bomberos” disobeyed order from the American troops, who had taken control of Puerto Rico, and due to the firemen’s valiant efforts, disaster was averted. An obelisk in Plaza Federico Degetau commerates their heroism.

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“The city erected a monument at Cementerio Civil to the memory of its firefighters. The inscription at the entrance of the monument reads as follows:

“Hay algo en este grave monumento
Que eleva nuestros ojos a la altura.
!En las entrañas la piedra dura
El valor y el deber tienen su asiento!
Tras la breve jornada de un momento
Aqui yacen en noble sepultura
los heroes de una vida de amargura
que a las llamas quitaron su ardimiento
Amargo es el vivir de los mortales
Que lucharon por curar ajenos males
Al mandato divino siempre fieles
Por eso estos funebres umbrales
Reza el mundo sus preces fraternales
Y entreteje la Gloria sus laureles”.
“There is something in this grave monument
That raises our eyes to the heights.
In the depths of the hard stone,
valour and duty have their throne!
After a brief one day’s work,
here lay in noble rest
the heroes of a bitter life
who took away the fire from the flames.
It’s bitter the life of the mortals
who fought to cure others’ burdens:
to the divine command always faithful.
This is why these sober passways
the world prays its fraternal prayers
and Heavens weaves its laurels.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parque_de_Bombas

A few years later, several homes, brightly painted in the traditional red and black colors of Ponce and the Parque de Bombas, were built for the firefighters and their families on 25 de Enero Street, January 25 Street, the date of the great fire, where I took these photographs. Many future generations have lived in these homes, and only families having direct ties to past firefighters can live there.

Today, the Old Fire Station serves as a local tourism office for Ponce and a museum commerating Ponce’s firemen and one firewoman–who graciously posed for the photograph below. I trusted my memory when we met, which I should never do, so if you know her name, please let me know! Thank you.

 

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