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Home of San Francisco Fire Chiefs
Dennis Sullivan Memorial

Photo of Chief's Residence at 870 Bush Street SAN FRANCISCO has built a permanent home for her Fire Chiefs. At the International Convention of Fire Chiefs, held in this city in 1923, it was declared by visiting chiefs from all parts of the world to be the most advanced and important step taken in this direction by any city in the world. It insures for all time a residence for the head of the Fire Department in the center of the big business district.

The home is known as the Dennis Sullivan Memorial Home in honor of the late Chief Dennis Sullivan, who lost his life at the time of the great disaster in 1906. It is situated on the north side of Bush street near Taylor on a fire lot. At the time of the fire in 1906 Chief Sullivan was living over the fire engine house on Bush street a few blocks east from the present home.

The Municipal Report for 1905-6-7 said:

“The earthquake overthrew the high ornamental tower that surmounted the roof of the California Hotel, immediately adjoining and high above the quarters of the Chief, which, toppling over on the latter roof, crashed through the building to the ground floor, going through the room occupied by Mrs. Sullivan and carrying her in her bed down to the bottom floor. Meanwhile the Chief, who occupied the adjoining room, was awakened by the crash, and unmindful of anything but his wife’s safety, rushed into the room occupied by here and in the dim light fell through the opening in the floor made by the fallen tower down to the bottom floor, receiving injuries that resulted in his death four days later.”
Some time after Chief Sullivan’s death a fund of more than $15,000 was raised by subscription to build some sort of a memorial to his memory. It was placed out at interest owing to the fact that the trustees of the fund were unable to agree upon what sort of a memorial should be built.

For several years the matter of building a home for the Fire Chief in the place of temporary shack that had been provided after the fire of 1906 by the City on Willow avenue, an alley west of Van Ness avenue, had been under discussion. The matter had been delayed owing to differences of opinion as to a location for the home, and the further fact that, owing to the very great advance in the cost of building material, an appropriation of $15,000, provided by the Supervisors, had become wholly inadequate for a building in this district, which was within the fire limits and was required to be of fire-proof construction.

At this juncture and after two appropriations had been made for two succeeding years in the annual budgets, and when hope that the building would ever be erected was almost despaired of, the trustees of the Sullivan Memorial Fund decided to assist Dennis T. Sullivan Memorial the building of the home and that is should be known as the Sullivan Memorial. The original amount of the Sullivan subscription had been increased, through the interest earned, to almost $20,000 and, together with the $15,000 provided by the Supervisors, was sufficient to build the home shown in the accompanying picture.

There is a bronze tablet in the center of the building with a picture of Chief Sullivan. On either side are two bronze doors which swing open and which enclose the garage in which the automobiles of the Chief stand always in readiness. The door to the right of the picture is the entrance leading up to the home itself, which is located on the second and third stories. On the ground floor at the left of the building is a window of the room for the Fire Chief’s operators. There are three beds in the room, and other conveniences for the men, who sleep there, one man always being on duty. The house is connected directly with the Central Fire Alarm Station. In this way the home is always cognizant of every alarm that is turned in. The Chief responds to every second alarm night or day and often goes at the first call to certain boxes in districts where he is apprehensive that a bad fire will occur.

The wisdom of the location has been demonstrated times without number. The most valuable part of the business district immediately surrounds it. Within a minute or two after a second alarm, if the Chief is at his home, he is at the scene of a fire and has assumed personal charge of it. No time is lost, and the expense of the building has been saved, in a most dramatic manner on several occasions, by his early and prompt appearance.

San Francisco Municipal Record
October 1925

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