One of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Puerto Rico is the Parque de Bombas, located at the Plaza Las Delicias in the municipality of Ponce. Standing directly behind the Ponce Cathedral, the structure’s brightly coloured, red and black woodframe has become an iconic image surpassed by few others on the island.
Influenced by Spanish and Moorish architecture, Lieutenant Colonel Máximo Meana of the Spanish Army designed and built the station in 1882. It originally served as the main exhibit pavilion for an agricultural trade fair but was soon thereafter commissioned to house the firefighting corps for the southern region of the island – a function it fulfilled for more than a century.
A popular tourist attraction before officially becoming a museum, the fire station was decommissioned in 1990 and reopened its doors to the public with exhibits of firefighting equipment and artifacts used throughout the station’s history, including the classic, vividly red, fire engine parked on its first floor.
A painting inside commemorates the heroic acts of seven valiant “bomberos” and a civilian who in 1899 fought valiantly against a voracious fire that threatened the region. Disobeying orders from American troops that had recently arrived to Puerto Rico, the group was able to appease flames that had started inside the army’s gunpowder reserves. Due to their courageous efforts, disaster was narrowly averted.
The building, now also a visitor’s center for tourists, endures as a symbol of courage and service to the community and is one of Puerto Rico’s most visited sights.