Napoleon LeBrun — Firehouse Architect and So Much More
Napoleon Eugene Charles Henry LeBrun, a prominent and prolific American architect of the late 19th century, was born on January 2, 1821. He began his career in Philadelphia and designed a number of notable buildings there and other Pennsylvania towns. In 1864 he moved his family and his practice to New York City. He would later partner with his sons, making the firm’s name Napoleon LeBrun and Son in 1880 with the addition of his son Pierre, and then and later Napoleon LeBrun and Sons with the addition of son Michel in 1892.
LeBrun had a big imapct on the New York City streetscape, and made some particularly memorable buildings in Greenwich Village and the East Village.
While still a solo act, LeBrun designed St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church and school on East 12th Street and East 11th Street respectively. This through block complex was built in 1870-71 and the church was built behind the facade of an 1847 church which was incorporated into the new church.
In late 2005, NYU announced plans to build a 26-story mega-dorm on the site of St. Ann’s Church, which was demolished that same year. Sadly, all that remains of the beautiful church is a freestanding shell of the 1847 facade (to see images of the stunning interior of the LeBrun 1870 addition to the church before and during demolition, see our historic image archive here). The neighboring rectory of St. Ann’s Church was also demolished in 2005 to make way for this dorm. The school on East 11th Street is still intact and has been converted to residences.
In 1879 Napoleon LeBrun became the official architect for the New York City Fire Department, which had formed in 1865. Between 1879 and 1895 the architectural firm would design 42 firehouses and other structures for the department, some of which still exist in our area:
604 East 11th Street (1879)
340 East 14th Street (1880)
132 West 10th Street (1891) – part of the Greenwich Village Historic District