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Flushing firehouse celebrates 100 years of history

There is no shortage of history that lives in the walls of Engine 273 and Ladder 129’s Flushing firehouse. On Friday, that history came to life.

Generations of firefighters returned to the home of the two FDNY units Friday morning to celebrate their 100th anniversary, paying tribute to former members lost and new members alike.

FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta, Borough President Helen Marshall, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone), City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing) and state Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D−Flushing) joined the festivities, held at the 40−18 Union St. house that has served as the home of the two companies for more than 75 years.

“When I was in the second−grade, me and my buddies Lester and Neil used to hang out here at the Long Island Rail Road bridge,” Liu said. “We would watch the trains go by, hoping and praying that the doors to this building would open and maybe we’d see a fire truck. I can’t believe so many years later that this firehouse would still be here.”

Engine 273 and Ladder 129 were organized by the city on Dec. 1, 1908, and have served the greater downtown Flushing area ever since. The companies were housed separately until 1932, when they were united at the Union Street house, which they have called home for the last 76 years.

On Friday several retired members were eager to get in the building to see what has changed.

“I haven’t been back here in 27 years ... it’s great,” said Joseph Ambrosio, who retired from active duty at the house in 1981. “I want to go up and see the kitchen. I hear it’s a lot better than when I was here.”

FDNY Department Chief Sal Cassano said the current 50−member crew that calls the house home has undoubtedly learned from those who came before them.

“I can’t help but think about how you’ve passed on your knowledge to the new members of the house,” he said during the ceremony.

In a more solemn moment of the otherwise upbeat celebration, members of the house dedicated plaques to two former members who died in the line of duty, but were never recognized.

Plaques honoring Ernest Mattes, who died in 1935, and Richard Schultz were dedicated on a bronze wall fashioned to look like a firehouse door.

Firefighter Larry Parker said information about Schultz and Mattes was unearthed during a nearly two−year effort to research the history of the two companies leading up to the centennial anniversary. Parker said the anniversary has brought the house’s current members closer together and has given them a powerful connection to their predecessors.

“It’s great to have all the retired guys back at the house. It’s great to see them and see some of the guys who are newer and didn’t know them get to meet them for the first time,” Parker said. “Tradition is big in the FDNY and it’s never been stronger in this house.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, ext. 138.

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