This Old House

Robert and Marilyn Katzman have turned "The Old Firehouse" in the Ocean View district into their residence, a museum, and now an annual Christmas event. The 101-year-old Victorian, tucked away in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, hasn't changed a lick since its time as a home for horse-drawn fire rigs. From the outside it looks as if it might go up in flames itself any second, but on the inside, it's a chilly warehouse full of firefighter memorabilia, pinball machines, artwork, spirits, and stories.

The Katzmans bought the firehouse in 1974 in a city auction -- for a not-very-San Francisco low price -- and made it their home. A few years later, they investigated the history of the house and began to collect antique firefighter curios. It didn't take long for the word to get out, and people started sending things their way. Presto! A museum. To Marilyn's tap-dancing accompaniment (the tap pro -- who once participated in a Guinness Book of World Records-attested achievement in long-distance unison tap -- plays "Flame," the dancing Dalmatian) and with the help of a 1955 Mack fire engine, they created an annual holiday tour, gift shop, and a day with Santa in the fire engine. But you can't slide down the pole; it starts in their bedroom.

-- Kelly Silbernagel

The Old Firehouse is open Saturday and Sunday only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 117 Broad (at Plymouth), S.F. Admission is free; call 333-7077.

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