Industrial villages like Proctorsville in Cavendish, Vermont, have always been susceptible to fire and complete destruction. As a result, many such villages erected firehouses or barns where apparatus (and sometimes horses) would be kept in case of emergency. The Proctorsville Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1883, and this structure was built to house the fire apparatus and possibly a small apartment or living quarters above. Today, the building appears to be home to the Fire Society.
A short distance to the Lapham Woolen Mill, this historic fire station can be found right on the street in Bramanville, an industrial village in Millbury, MA. The fire station was built in 1883 by the Lapham Woolen Mill owners as an insurance protection from fire and complete loss of their lucrative business. After Lapham’s death in 1893, the company sold the mill, worker’s housing, store and fire station to the Mayo Woolen Company which began production almost immediately. Sadly, like many former industrial buildings nearby, the future is unclear for this amazing old building. What would you repurpose the Bramanville Fire Station into?
Located on sleepy Main Street in Lancaster, Massachusetts, this cute mini-mansard building caught my eye immediately, and I had to take a picture! The building was constructed in 1836 for the Lancaster National Bank. The brick building was just one story with storefront windows and a central entrance, and was the only bank in the small town. When the neighboring town of Clinton saw a large increase in population due to industrial growth, the Lancaster National Bank decided to relocate to be closer to a larger clientele. They sold this building to the Town of Lancaster in 1882 and moved out. Within a year, the town added the mansard roof to the building, being careful to preserve the original cornice (now where the brick meets the roof), and converted the building to a fire station with double doors. The Central Fire Station was in operation here until 1967 when a new building was built nearby, with doors large enough to easily house modern engines. The building was then used as storage and offices for the Lancaster Water Department. Sadly, the replacement fire station doors really diminish the appeal of the building.
Located in a triangular island at the corner of Main Street and Monument Square in the charming town of Hollis, NH, the Always Ready Engine House is a two-story clapboarded building with a lower level exposed on the east end due to the sloping site. The simple Greek Revival-style building is capped by a low-pitched gable roof and is outlined by simple pilaster cornerboards. The building was constructed in 1859 by the Town and furnished by the local fire company. Initially the building was kept for the exclusive use of the engine company but in 1862 the Soldiers’ Aid Society was granted permission to meet here. In 1877 the building was altered to accommodate the Town Hearse and in 1878 part of the basement was fitted as a local police lock-up and tramp shelter. The fire department finally vacated the structure in 1950 and the building served as the police station from 1971 to 1987. It was given to the Hollis Historical Society shortly after who hold documents, objects and photos which display the history of the town inside.
In the early 19th century, firefighting in New York was done by an assortment of volunteer groups with no centralized director. This hall was built as a headquarters for two of these groups—a move toward cooperation amongst competitors. Each company split the ground floor, divided into three rooms. The front room for the apparatus, the centre room for their meetings and the room in the rear for sitting and reading. The upper stories held meeting rooms and a library. The building was occupied as a fire headquarters until it relocated in 1887. The City of New York closed the station in the 1970s and it was rented as a mosque and theater company, losing much of its architectural detailing over the years. The Italianate style building, faced with Connecticut brownstone was restored close to the original design based on historic photos and converted to retail use, now housing Dolce & Gabbana.
This charming little firehouse in the Lower Falls Village in Newton, MA was built in 1900 to serve the growing industrial village along the Charles River. The station was active until 1918 when a newer station was built between Lower Falls and Waban on Beacon Street to service both developing villages. By 1923, the structure was remodeled by the city and opened as a public library. The ground floor was utilized as the library, with a room in the rear was used for voting. The second floor was converted to the janitor’s apartment who maintained the space. The library moved as the cramped space was not suitable for a growing city, and the property was sold by the city to a developer in 1979 and was converted to a multi-family dwelling.
Could you live in a converted firehouse?
The first practical fire alarm system was developed in Massachusetts during the late 1840’s by Dr. William F. Channing and Moses G. Farmer, a telegraph operator. Their experimental system was installed in Boston in 1851, being the first urban fire alarm system in the country. Before this, people would have to run and notify fire stations of a fire, who then rang a bell, to rally the citizens and firefighters. John Gamewell, realizing the potential of such a system, purchased the patents and continued to improve the system. While the headquarters for the business was in New York, the units were manufactured in Newton, Massachusetts. By 1886, Gamewell systems were installed in 250 cities across America and Canada. Four years later in 1890, Gamewell systems were installed in 500 cities. To meet the growing company’s needs for space, it relocated from Newton Highlands to Upper Falls and built a new factory, a wood frame structure. As the company continued to grow, it built a brick addition in 1904 and another on the other end in 1912. The system has been used all over North America, visible by the large red boxes on street poles and buildings with the lightening bolt logo. The business remained in Upper Falls until 1970, when it became a division of Gulf and Western. The company moved out and the buildings have been restored, with many small and local businesses located inside.
If you’ve been to Brookline, you’ve probably heard of or seen the Dutch House, but have you seen the Dutch (Fire) House? This amazing fire station on Washington Street in Brookline was built in 1898 for the growing town’s suburban population. Local architect G. Fred Crosby designed the building in a Dutch Renaissance Revival style, likely influenced by the Dutch House which was moved to Brookline just years before. The brick building has a Dutch stepped gable roof, stone detailing around the openings, and a tall Italian Renaissance style hose tower to the rear. The station was minimally altered at the exterior, most notably in 1951 for the enlarging of a bay to allow for larger fire apparatus to get in and out of the building. The building was featured in BrickBuilder, an architectural journal which focused on buildings and designs for brick.
This unique vernacular example of the Second Empire architectural style in Chester stands on the side of Vermont Route 103. Records state that the fire station was constructed in 1873 with the two towers (bell and hose) built within a decade after. The station’s name, “Yosemite” is a Miwak Indian tribe name meaning Grizzly Bear. “Yosemite” was also the name on the engine purchased for Chester’s Fire House. The name was quickly adopted by the men for their volunteer Fire Department.
As of early 2018, it appears the Chester Historical Society maintained the building, but gifted the building to the town as it could not afford maintenance and insurance on the building. There have been calls from the public to move the station away from the road to be incorporated into a fire museum. RT-103 was once a dirt road only traversed by horse, now, thousands of cars pass by the structure, narrowly avoiding it.