Thursday Doors –Windsor Fire Houses

Union St Tavern.

Since Windsor is arguably Connecticut’s first town, it should come as no surprise that it contains an abundance of historic buildings. Few, if any date back to the 17th century, when the town was founded, but since they were here first, they expanded earlier than other towns. As the population grew, the town needed a Town Hall, a Post Office, a Library, and all the things you would expect to find in a modern town. The Town Hall was torn down and replaced. The Post Office was given to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)  and a bit of the library was added onto to build the current library.

One, actually two, of the things Windsor needed early were firehouses. Firehouses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were difficult structures to keep in operation. As fire apparatus grew in size and capability, fire departments eventually outgrew the buildings they called home. Fortunately, a lot of towns in Connecticut have kept their historic firehouses alive to serve other purposes. Maybe they house the parade truck. Maybe they’re used for storage. Maybe they became a bar.

Two of Windsor’s oldest firehouses have been repurposed. One as a financial services office and one as a restaurant. These two former stations are related, and share important roles in the rich and turbulent history of the Windsor Fire Department’s early days.

The first firehouse in the gallery is on Maple St. This was one of the first firehouses in town, but it almost wasn’t ever built. Like many of the fire departments in CT, Windsor’s firemen are mostly volunteers. You would think that with a volunteer brigade, the town would be more than willing to buy equipment, build firehouses and supply water, but that hasn’t always been the case. Early volunteers actually contributed to the purchase of equipment, and at least the land for the Maple St. firehouse was donated. I say ‘at least’ because one source says the land was donated and another says the building was donated as well.

The interesting thing is that, initially, the town rejected the gift. I’m not sure why, the facts are a little murky, but eventually, the land was donated, with the provision that it be used for a firehouse, and the town accepted. The building, according to the National Registry of Historic Places nomination form, is an:

Example of a late 19th century village firehouse in handsome yet simple Victorian Italianate style. Building has a simple charm due to its small scale and fanciful detail. Note the relieving arches and the denticular cornice.  Both are examples of fine masonry craftsmanship of the period.”

That firehouse was active for about 40 years, when, in 1927 the town agreed to upgrade equipment and the vehicles they purchased would not fit. It was at that point that the Union St. Firehouse was built on the opposite side of the Town Green. The Union St. Firehouse was a nice two-story, two-bay affair and served the town until 1964 when it was replaced by a larger, more modern but not nearly as attractive building near the Public Safety Complex, a.k.a. Police Station.

The Maple St. Firehouse was sold to a private owner in 1939 and was eventually turned into offices for a small financial firm. The Union St. firehouse was turned into Union Street Tavern in 2004. We have eaten there several times. They have a nice bar, with a good selection of draft beer and they have pretty good food. There is some fire station memorabilia scattered about, but not so much that you’d call it a theme.

The oldest “fire station” in Windsor is no longer standing. Ironically, it burned down. Again, from the history pages:

The volunteer fire company that served Windsor center was formed in 1830 by twenty men who each subscribed five dollars. Their early apparatus and a storage building were destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1869 that burned more than a dozen large buildings in the center of town.”

Since the firemen’s building was the first building to burn, they were unable to bring a serious effort to fighting the expanding blaze.

This post is part of the fun and interesting weekly series called Thursday Doors brought to all us wanna-be firemen by Chief Norm Frampton. If you want to participate, or if you just want to see a collection of doors from around the world, drive your fire engine up to Norm’s place. Check out his doors and then look for the blue frog. Click and off you go.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
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72 Responses to Thursday Doors –Windsor Fire Houses

  1. Deb says:

    Nice history lesson. And beautiful doors too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your older, repurposed fire stations. Handsome buildings. Too bad they couldn’t have incorporated some windows into a door rather than that big, plain window. Oh well, applause that they preserved the beautiful building. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Judy. I had the same thought about the door/window, but then I thought about the fact that the building was built in the 1880s and I wondered what kind of door it had. Maybe there wasn’t much to work with. Still, my imagination has a beautiful old door filling that arched opening. The building is beautiful, and I am glad it’s still standing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ianbcross says:

    Windsor Connecticut reminds me of Windsor Berkshire. We don’t have so many firehouses though. Perhaps all the early housing was made of wood, so fire was a frequent hazard. These places are mainly brick. Very interesting and decent pictures, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks. It was hard to get decent photos, as things are so close together in the old part of town that it’s hard to get a vantage point. Also, taking pictures of private property is always a little dicey.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ianbcross says:

        Just say you are a realtor (we call them estate agents over this side of the Atlantic)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dan Antion says:

          That’s funny. I was mistaken for one while photographing a building in Hartford. I didn’t know it at the time, but there were rumors that it was being sold and the security staff was trying to find out if they were true. I explained that I used to work in the building and just wanted some photos.

          Like

  4. BeckyB says:

    oh my I shouldn’t smile but I did when I read the fireman’s building was the first one to burn in the 1869 fire.

    great post :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. slfinnell says:

    Your bottom firehouse is strikingly similar to one of Sedalia’s if the door were just slightly moved to the left :) Spent many an evening there while my father-in-law(aka firehouse chef extraordinaire) cooked us meals. Everyone should make friends with those firehouse cooks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joanne Sisco says:

    Both of them are lovely little buildings. If I hadn’t read your post, I wouldn’t have guessed they began life as a fire hall, but now I can imagine the big bay doors where the windows are now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’ve always like the building on Maple St, but I never realized it had been a fire house. Union St has the look, and the carved stone dedication plaque gives it away if you can read it (which you can’t hardly in my photo).

      Like

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        It’s interesting that after I read your post, I read about a similar small fire station in Toronto that I would never have guessed its origins. If I’m ever in that neighbourhood, I’ll have to look it up. It had been built as a dedicated fire hall for a nearby factory.

        Like

  7. Norm 2.0 says:

    Fascinating stuff as usual Dan – thanks for the history info.
    It’s almost always a nice thing to see old public buildings re-purposed instead of being torn down – especially old firehouses and post offices.
    That firehouse being the first building to burn? Oh, the irony :-(

    Liked by 1 person

  8. marianallen says:

    That building that’s now an investment company is sheer beauty! And I have a special fondness for firehouses turned into bars, from the days my mom, youngest daughter, and I watched EARLY EDITION together. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the reflection of snow in that door. And the brick colour.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Almost Iowa says:

    As fire apparatus grew in size and capability, fire departments eventually outgrew the buildings they called home

    I remember how incensed a neighbor was that the city was abandoning “a perfectly good structure”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m absolutely charmed by the ones with the trio of arched windows, Dan. I’ve probably said this before, but wouldn’t it be grand to live in a renovated/remodeled firehouse? Have a thriving Thursday. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Neat history, and selection of doors! I liked the reflection in the door, and I love the station house on Maple St.

    I left some comments on a few images so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to say about each place. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Deborah. I really appreciate the comments you leave on the pictures. I try to respond, but I don’t know if there’s ever any notification. I love the Victorian fire house on Maple St. It would be such a neat place to live.

      Like

  13. Vicky says:

    Lovely to read the history, old and new behind the fire stations. I prefer the older ones, so much more character !

    Liked by 1 person

  14. joey says:

    New fire stations, are, for the most part, boring here as well. I showed one where the architect at least tried to bring points of interest, but most of the new are meh. BUT SUPER IMPORTANT! lol
    So many lovely old buildings, I think New England is spoiled. Gottier Investments definitely chose a winner. SO charming!
    I love the door on the tavern, because look at that handle!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. bikerchick57 says:

    Nice doors today, Dan. I always appreciate when an older building is repurposed, especially when they serve adult refreshment and food. The Maple Street firehouse is adorable, but I agree about the big bay window – it’s too big and flat and meh. Is that a private residence? It looks to be with the second floor window treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m so sorry, Dan. It made me smile when I read your account of the fire station that burned down. It was a terrible thing to happen, when those men contributed out of their own pockets to set it up. But when you said it was the first building to go on fire and this prevented them controlling the blazing of the other buildings, I wondered if the fire started at the station. I really like that ‘Gottier Investments’ building.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Heartafire says:

    Thank you for the beautiful tour, this is as close as I will get to Connecticut or any snowy place in the near future…enjoyed!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Dan, this reminded me of a scenario we had a couple of years ago when a brand-new, state-of-the-art firehouse debuted directly across the street from a strip/shopping center. One day a fire call went out for the other side of town for a small brush fire and the firefighters responded immediately. However…almost simultaneously a fire broke out in the shopping center and it burned to the ground even while across the street from the brand-new, state-of-the-art firehouse. A reminder that like the tale of the fire station you relay here…irony cannot be contained.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. AmyRose🌹 says:

    So enjoyed another history lesson, Dan. I agree with you that the new firehouse is boring. I like the original one so much better. However, whoever designed that front window did not know how to incorporate proper architecture for the period of the building. Nope, not a good fit at all. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. jesh stg says:

    The name Windsor (probably because of the UK) has such a regal ring to it’s name. The red building is a beauty! Was in Jackson (county seat) last weekend, and they have the fire house smack in the middle of town, right at the end/beginning of the historic gold rush street.Which reminds me, I could show those doors sometime~

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I always like the hose towers on the back of fire station. Enjoyed this, Dan

    Liked by 1 person

  22. cwaugh212 says:

    Hi Dan. This is a beautiful and well documented post. Thanks for taking the time to research and present this history in such an informative manner. I particularly like your picture of the Union Street Tavern.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. reocochran says:

    Fire houses are amazing and the Italianate design was featured on one of my Halloween decorated houses. . . Beautiful brickwork on the lovely fire station house on Maple Street, Dan. I would like to see the fire pole and original insides.
    The Union Street fire house looks very nice and much bigger. Great to have it become a tavern restaurant. The place sounds cool to go for a change of pace dinner. :)
    We have a Spaghetti Warehouse in Columbus which is really cool, even a part of a train (possibly a caboose? I forget) to sit in with booths. In Marion, they have a brick building restaurant called The Warehouse. Also serves Italian food.
    I like your sense of humor when it comes to how you link up to Norm and guide their fire trucks on over. . . I get kind of bored with my a in creating new ways to suggest more door links but love my Thursday’s Doors friends!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Love the history…love the doors…love the buildings…great post Dan!!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Nice post; old fire stations should be kept for history or repurposed to keep the character of the community and turning them into bars is not a bad idea too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I thought I replied to this, but WP says I didn’t. I agree with the thought that the buildings should be preserved. Except, maybe in 80 years, when today’s bland utilitarian fire houses need to be replaced.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. dweezer19 says:

    So many buildings and doors! I love the reflection in the glass on one of the doors. The snow makes me shiver though…….

    Liked by 1 person

  27. sharukhbamboat says:

    Although, I am late on this one, but I read it earlier on my mobile. As usual, a great piece of history combined with great images. However, I don’t see fire engines in the images. Yeah the new building seems very boring to me as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Paul says:

    A fire station that burned down? That’s like a water-control station that was lost in a flood. Good pics, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

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