FIRE HOUSE HISTORY - 1890's
Once the incorporation of the Village of Depew was completed, the new village board immediately turned its attention to providing fire protection facilities for the new village.
At its first meeting on September 5, 1894, a motion was carried by the board to issue a call for a special election to appropriate $8000 for fire protection and buildings. $5000 was earmarked for providing water and fire supplies and $3000 for buildings to house the apparatus for the fire companies.
The special election was held on September 24, 1894 and the eligible voters of the village approved the issue.
Following the approval of the bond issue, a committee of two, Trustees John Graney and George Waltz, were appointed to select sites for firehouses.
On October 1st, the committee on firehouse site selection reported that two sites had been selected. One of the sites was on the north side of the railroad tracks and the other site was on the south side. The board then tabled the report.
Two weeks later, the committee on sites reported that they had met with Mr. Williams, manager of the Depew Improvement Company. He said, “ If the village would build one building using all of the present appropriation of the $3000, he would furnish one site free and build two additional houses costing from $2500 to $3000 each. The village would then rent these buildings on a basis of ten percent of the cost, providing that if the village decided to purchase the sites upon which the houses stood also”. This plan however was not acceptable to the board.
The committee and the board continued to deliberate the question of site location without resolving the issue. In the mean time, the organization and incorporation of Depew Hose Company Number One was completed.
In April of 1895, the company began to urge the village board of trustees, to provide a meeting place for the company. The Number Ones continued their campaign for a meeting room and also a place to store their hose cart with no decision being made.
At the April 15, 1895 meeting of the village board of trustees, the board appointed Village President Martin Kieffer, a committee of one to secure a meeting place for the firemen on the north side of the New York Central Railroad tracks.
The site selection continued without resolve as on June 28th, a new committee of two, trustees John Zurbrick and George Waltz were appointed to select fire house sites and report back to the board at their earliest convenience. The committee continued to work with a committee from Hose Company Number One but by August 6th, no sites had been as yet chosen.
A report by John Byron at the November meeting of Hose Company One indicated that a Mr. Bussell had made an offer to the company of a room to hold their meetings. The report was received and a hearty vote of thanks was given Mr. Bussell for his kind offer.
On November 17, 1895, a petition was presented to the village board requesting that the south side fire house be located at Gould and Penora Street and in a special election held nine days later that site and a site on Ellicott Road, (west of George Waltz’s Hotel) were chosen. On March 30, 1896 special committees were appointed to supervise the construction of the firehouses. These were north side, Trustees Waltz, Hennessey and Bostwick and for the south side, Trustees Kieffer, Byron and Woelfell.
The original plans for the two firehouses were substantially different, the one for the north side being more expensive. After some discussion, it was decided to hold a special election on April 28, 1896, asking the voters to approve a plan to spend additional monies so that both buildings would be erected according to the original north side plans.
On April 6th, a committee of five members of the Hose Company One was appointed to canvass the town and on Election Day work and help carry the appropriation for the north side firehouse. This was followed by a special meeting three days later at which a committee of seven was appointed to see the committee of the “ other side “ and in a body go see the Village President Martin Kieffer in regard to the appropriation for the north side firehouse.
With the help of the firemen, the voters were persuaded to add the additional monies to complete the project. The village board asked for bids for the construction of the two fire houses and the bid for the north side firehouse was awarded to Witherspoon & McMead in the amount of $2030, while the south side bid was awarded to Sullivan & Grabell for $2230.
In a newspaper article dated July 17, 1896, the construction of the two buildings was well underway and it was expected that both buildings would be completed by August 1st. The buildings were described as occupying commanding positions, and have a substantial appearance, which adds much to the appearance of the sections in which they are located. Both buildings were built from the original plans for the north side fire station, and these specifications were being followed with but little variation.
Both buildings were twenty-eight feet by sixty feet in size, two stories in height, with a gable roof. Both stories had ten-foot ceilings in the clear. The north side building rested on stone piers, ten feet on center, while the Southside had a stonewall. Building the hose drying towers on the outside of the building increased the capacity of the building. These towers were twelve-feet by twelve-feet built in the rear of the structures and rose to a height of fifty-feet
Double doors, having a clearance space of eight-feet nine inches, entered the south side firehouse, while the north side had a height of seven-feet. The front room, on the lower floor, was twenty-eight feet by forty feet in the clear, less a space of twelve feet by fifteen feet on one side in the rear of the room reserved for jail cells for the police department. The rear portion had been made into an official meeting room, twenty by twenty and one half feet. The room in the south side had been finished and was ready for occupancy, by the village board of trustees for their next regular meeting in July. It should be noted here that the village offices and council meeting room was shifted between the north side and the south side depending on which side held the political power in the village.
A hallway four feet wide led from the main room to the hose tower in the rear. The upper floor was reached by a stairway landing in a hall seven feet in width. On the south side this stairway was left open, and was finished with a railing, balusters and newel posts. This was considered an advantage, as those who happened to be in the rooms when an alarm was sounded, in reaching the room in which the apparatus was stored could save several seconds.
The front room of the upper story was eighteen feet by twenty-eight feet in size, and was used as a parlor. In the rear of this and connected by wide sliding doors was the meeting room for the company and was nineteen and one half feet by twenty-two feet in size. In back of this was a sleeping room twelve feet by nineteen and one half feet, and extending entirely across the rear was an apartment six feet by twenty-eight feet, which was to be used as a bath, toilet room, and lockers for uniforms and other personal property. The lower floors of the towers were built of two inch Norway plank. The outside of the building was sided with No. two pine, and was painted with two coats of paint The ceiling in the lower story was of pine and the upper story was plastered. Each building had about twenty-seven windows, giving plenty of light. It was stated, “Our fire companies will heartily welcome the completion of these buildings, giving them as it will, a meeting place and headquarters, and providing many conveniences and comforts, which will do much to encourage them to greater effort in the discharge of duty, when called upon”.
On October 5, 1896, the firehouses were turned over to the Aetna Hose Company and the Depew Hose Company Number One for occupancy. The first social event to be held in either was a New Years Eve Supper sponsored by Lodge 98 L.O.O.F. Later many social events of note were held in the firehouses. The first village election to be held in a village building was the election of March 16, 1897 and was held at the Gould Avenue firehouse.
In January 1897 a bill was presented and approved by the village board for the payment to John Graney for the use of a room in his building by Hose Co. No. 1 from August 1894 to September 1896 at a charge of $10 per month
Having been incorporated and a charter granted, the Hook & Ladder Company Number One was asked to select a meeting place. On December 7, 1896, the company expressed a preference for using the south side firehouse at Gould and Penora Street and permission was granted.
Now the Hooks and Aetna were housed together but not for very long. A controversy soon developed between the companies. Conflicts regarding usage, preference, care and so forth, increased so that in September of 1899, the village board was forced to remodel the fire house and divide the quarters in order to keep peace between them.
In November 1899, a communication was received by the village board from the Hook & Ladder and the Aetna Hose Company asking the board of trustees to designate the northeast room of the Gould Avenue firehouse as the permanent parlor of the Hook & Ladder Company and the south room of the same building as permanent parlor for the Aetna Hose Company. The middle room was to be used as a meeting room for both companies. The board agreed with the wishes of the two companies and the request was granted.
After the Cayuga Hose Company was organized and put into service, the hose cart that was presented to them by Hose Company Number One was housed at the blacksmith shop of L.P.Ruther on Broadway for $1.00 per month.
In October of 1898, the Cayuga’s received permission from the Depew School Board to hold their meetings at the Broadway School, which was located on Broadway between Lackawanna and North Bryant Streets. The meetings were held at the school for a period of ten years until a new firehouse was constructed.