I first noticed this old fire house last spring when our daughter was recovering from surgery. She had been given permission to “walk up to two miles” and she clearly wanted to take that walk. I drove her into the center of Unionville, Connecticut and we set out to explore. We couldn’t venture too far in any one direction because we had a lot of snow last winter and the sidewalks hadn’t been all cleared. The last leg of our walk took us up to Hose Company 1. We snapped a couple of photos, but this was before I started with Thursday Doors, so I didn’t even look for a door.
Fortunately, two furballs brought me back to Unionville this week. I agreed to feed these guys and I stopped to snag a few photos. I didn’t have time to write about the building and make my normal time slot. I was touched that several people in this community noticed the absence of my door and asked if I was OK.
I knew right away that I’d be able to find out about the history of this building. It was deemed eligible to be added to the National Registry of Historic Buildings in 1983. The building is well maintained, and had been in active service to the town from 1893 until 1960.
The building represents more than the history of firefighting in Unionville; it actually represents the history of the town itself. Before Unionville existed formally as a town, a Fire District was formed around this fire station to serve the Village of Unionville. In a lot of CT towns, there were fire districts before there were formal local governments. This is from the Hose Company’s History page:
“On November 20, 1893, Tunxis Hose Co. No. 1 is formed to provide fire protection to the village of Unionville. Thirty men volunteer to serve, with Lucius C. Humphrey becoming the first foreman. W.W. Pinney is elected as 1st assistant and Michael Hoggerty as 2nd assistant. A hose cart, one shut off nozzle, two play pipes and 1000 feet of 2 ½ inch hose are purchased at a cost of $798.00, and Tunxis hose Co. No. 1 is now ready to fight fires.”
Another little bit of the history that I found interesting is the record of the first fire the company put out. Captain Nathaniel Hayden, a man who had been very much opposed to the formation of the fire company, was out of town when his house caught on fire. The cause was the explosion of the home’s oil burner. The fire company responded and the house was saved. To show his gratitude, Captain Hayden donated an eight-day clock to the company. The clock remains in excellent condition and hangs in the fire station that replaced Hose Company 1.
The clock isn’t the only thing in excellent condition. The building has been very well maintained. That’s a good thing, because the building is particularly interesting. It was built in the Victorian style, and the details in the brickwork are quite attractive. I think the people who built this station wanted it to stand as an important symbol of their affection for this village and their passion for firefighting. The tower in the back is actually for drying the hoses. Typically, the hoses would be hung over a beam and the beam would then be winched up from a platform at the top. I wasn’t able to get inside this station, and, according to various sources, if I had, I wouldn’t be able to get upstairs. The upper rooms are used for storage now, and firemen seem to need a lot of storage because the rooms are said to be packed solid.
I am glad the building is being maintained. I peeked inside and I see that their parade truck is parked in the bay along with some signage from what might be their annual fundraiser. The men and women who staff and support volunteer fire departments around Connecticut are vital members of our first responder community. They are still saving lives and property, on a daily basis, well over 100 years after this company first formed.
This post is part of the wonderfully fun Thursday Doors series from Norm Frampton. If you want to see the other doors, or contribute your favorite door, click on over to Norm’s page and look for the linky thing.