Today in History Syracuse Fire Chief Philip Eckel Dies After Being Thrown from Horse Drawn Fire Engine

The Eckel monument in its original location at Butternut and North State Streets.

On June 1st 1886, Syracuse Fire Chief Philip Eckel was on his way to a fire on East Washington Street when he was thrown from his horse drawn fire engine as it crossed the New York Central Railroad tracks. As the horse-drawn fire engine approached the tracks, the driver noticed a freight train approaching on the track. The driver lashed the horses into a full gallop to clear the tracks. The fire engine hit the tracks and Eckel thrown from the vehicle, which then ran him over. Eckel was still conscious and bystanders carried him to a nearby barbershop and summoned a doctor. From there, Eckel was transported by ambulance to his home where he later died from his injuries. A few days later, Eckel’s body was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery. Thousands of mourners lined the route the funeral procession took to the cemetery. Over 1,000 fireman comprised the cortege.

Eckel had been both a policeman and fireman before the Civil War broke out. He joined Company B of the 149th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a 1st Lieutenant in 1862 and was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. After the war he returned to serving the City of Syracuse as a Fire Captain, and later, Fire Chief. Today, a monument to Philip Eckel stands in Fayette Firefighters Memorial Park, commemorating his service to the City of Syracuse. Originally, the memorial to Eckel was erected at Butternut and North State Streets in 1901. 60 years later, it moved again, this time to Salina and Pearl. Unfortunately, as Post Standard columnist Dick Case wrote in 1977, “pigeons turned it into an unsanitary district, vandals scribbled it and air pollution tattle-tailed its dress greys.” Two years later, it moved to its final resting place in Firefighters Park