Originally built in 1901 to house Chemical Company No. 4, this firehouse served the Brookland community which lay outside the municipal water service, making the neighborhood inaccessible to fire hydrants. By 1905 though, Engine Company No. 17 formed at the request of the Brookland Citizens' Association for a community firehouse to protect their neighborhood. Constructed when development sites were readily available in Brookland, Engine Company No. 17 was and is distinctive with its 60-foot tower, making it an identifiable landmark in the community.
Engine Company No. 17's prominent tower had dual purpose: drying hoses and observation of the surrounding area. By 1902, the city's fire alarm call box system achieved a level of sophistication that rendered most observation towers obsolete. However, in the case of Engine Company No. 17, the observation tower's use likely continued to serve as a look out; the call box system had not been extended throughout the suburban areas of DC so the general low building heights in the neighborhood made an observation tower more effective for spotting fires.
At the time of its construction, only a few modest, free-standing houses stood in the immediate vicinity of the firehouse. Today, Brookland is a fully developed residential area, with Engine Company No. 17 as one of its beloved landmarks.
DC Inventory: July 22, 2004
National Register: June 6, 2007