Painted in red and black after the colors of the city of Ponce, Parque de Bombas is both an architectural icon and historical monument. This small fire station is the most photographed structure in all of Puerto Rico, second only to Castillo San Felipe del Morro in the capital city of San Juan. Find out what makes this firefighting station the most enchanting of its kind that you will probably ever see.
Parque de Bombas takes center stage when it comes to the attractions in Ponce. Located at the Plaza del Delicias, it was built as an industrial and agricultural fair’s pavilion in 1882 and converted into a fire station the following year.
Today, Parque de Bombas is renowned as a museum that traces the fire brigade’s history and its many glorious feats.
A Learning Excursion
Your kids – and the kid in you — will love the antiquated fire truck displayed on the lower level and there are trolley tours free of charge. Named for the water units that were traditionally hand-pumped, Parque de Bombas is a treasure throve of southern Puerto Rican history, from the firefighters who served in different units to the great 1899 fire.
The structure consists of an open space flanked on either side by its two towers, the space having been used as a garage for the fire trucks and the towers as firemen’s quarters. Firefighting memorabilia as well as firefighting equipment of yore are displayed at the Parque, making a visit here a learning excursion for young children, history buffs, firefighting supporters, and curious tourists alike.
Commemorations of Heroism
The Parque’s location is in the town plaza with trees, water fountains, walkways, and benches. It is adjacent to the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, seat of the Ponce’s Roman Catholic Diocese. Reflective of Spain’s architectural style in the 1880s, Parque de Bombas bears striking resemblance to Spanish mansions in the said era.
The heroism of the seven bomberos, or firemen, and the civilian who valiantly fought the ravenous fire which threatened to consume the entire city of Ponce is commemorated in a painting that hangs in the Parque, as well as an obelisk at the nearby Plaza Federico Degetau and a mausoleum at the Ponce Civil Cemetery where all heroes have been interred.
Without Regard for Their Own Safety
According to some historical accounts, these seven firefighters appeased the raging flames that began inside the gunpowder reserves of the occupying troops of the U.S. Army without regard for their own safety and the consequences of having disobeyed orders from the American troops that took control of the country in 1898, the year of the Spanish-American War.
The Parque was Ponce’s major fire station until it was decommissioned in 1990. Still, the fascination with this charming structure continues.
If you happen to be in Ponce over the weekend, listen to the Banda Municipal de Ponce, predecessor to the Ponce Firefighters’ Band, that plays Sunday evening concerts regularly as part of Ponce’s cultural program called retreatas.