The FASNY Firefighter’s Home is dedicated to providing a home-like setting and personalized care for those volunteer firefighters who have served their communities, but can no longer care for themselves.
Governed by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) Board of Directors and guided by an elected Board of Trustees, the Firefighter’s Home has been the only facility in the world exclusively dedicated to volunteer firefighters for more than 125 years.
The history of the Firefighter’s Home begins with the story of George Washington Anderson, a self-made business man, a member of the Brooklyn Bridge Trustees and, most importantly, a dedicated volunteer firefighter.
George W. Anderson could never have imagined what the Firefighter’s Home would become: A truly beautiful, first-class skilled nursing home staffed by some of the best nursing, ancillary health care, dietary, maintenance and other dedicated caregivers that can be found in any nursing home, anywhere.
Anderson was born in New York City January 24, 1834. He joined the Phoenix Hose Co. No. 22 located at 77 Canal Street in Manhattan’s lower East Side on March 20, 1854. Firefighter Anderson was the company Secretary, then Treasurer, and was serving as company Foreman when the volunteers were disbanded in 1865.
Anderson then went on to help organize the Volunteer Firemen’s Association of the City of New York in 1884. This new organization did not limit membership to veteran firefighters with five or more years of service: Anyone who was ever a volunteer firefighter in New York City was eligible to join this new group. George W. Anderson was most concerned about the welfare of the sick, disabled and indigent firefighter.
At the 1888 FASNY Convention held in Cortland, New York, George W. Anderson presented a resolution to the membership:
Whereas, the services rendered by the volunteer firemen of the State of New York are at all times hazardous and involve risk of life, but are given freely in the protection of life and property of their fellow citizens without compensation or reward. Resolved, that the New York State Firemen’s Association take such action to provide a home for those who by reason of adversity or force of circumstances, may become so situated that they are not able to provide for themselves.
The resolution went on to direct the President of FASNY to appoint a committee of five to find a suitable location for a Firefighter’s Home and to report their findings at the 1889 Convention. The Committee recommended that FASNY make application to charter a Home and issue capital stock at a cost of $10 a share to fund the construction. Volunteer fire departments across the state would be asked to buy shares.
Over the past 125 years, the Firefighter’s Home has evolved from a working farm “poor house” with 15 initial “inmates” (as Home members were called until 1914) to a fully licensed 92-bed skilled nursing home. These changes have presented challenges to FASNY in the past and will continue to do so well into the future.
In 1931, construction began on the Memorial Hospital. The hospital building was paid for by a generous gift from Exempt Firemen’s Association of the City of New York. This would be one of the last acts of this venerable organization as the few surviving New York City volunteer firefighters were getting well along in years. The addition of the hospital now made it possible to accept disabled, as well as indigent, volunteers.
By 1934, there were 168 Home members. Going into 1940, as the effects of the Great Depression were being felt across the world, there were 192 Home members.
In 1941, FASNY purchased an adjacent 120-acre farm. The Firefighter’s Home now had over 300 acres under cultivation with Home members doing much of the agricultural labor. The farming operations ended in 1967 with the sale of all the equipment and livestock.
Beginning in the late 1960s, there were changes in federal and state laws as well as Department of Health regulations that dramatically affected the way the Home did business. The transition from “Hospital Side/Home Side” to a totally skilled nursing facility had begun.
The transformation was slow, but thorough. FASNY has and continues to evolve with the geriatric health care field, earning a prestigious Circle of Excellence Award from National Association of Directors of Nursing Administrators in 2005 and dedicating the current 126,000 square-foot, $35 million facility in 2007.
The Home, which celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2017, has welcomed well over 3,000 residents to date. The one constant over its long history has been the staff and its exemplary services that nurture the bodies, minds and spirits of the special residents.