HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY
Howard Reynolds - Storrs
Frank Hilbert - Mystic
Joseph Herman - Mystic
Jim Morgan - Ansonia
Bob Ashley - Watertown
Bill Yandow - Avon
David Macy - Avon
Dr. Phillip Gerlach - Branford
John Tweed - Branford
John Keselinas - Branford
The Connecticut Firemen’s Historical Society was the result of many concerned firefighters noting that much of Connecticut’s Fire Service History and memorabilia was being lost to other states.
The idea for the Society was born on March 20, 1970, when fifteen members of the fire service met to explore the possibilities for a Fire Museum and a Society that could be the administering agency. In attendance were:
Ken Pelletier - Newtown
Arthur Selleck - Fairfield
Bill Morris - CT Historical Commission
Larry Ford - Redding
Richard Symonds - Tolland
Larry Ford, Howard Reynolds, Jack Twee, and Dick Symonds became a temporary steering committee to deal with organization and legal issues, financing, equipment needs, and space/facility needs. Clarence Baldwin, a collector of fire and police memorabilia, agreed to leave his extensive collection to an appropriate fire preservation society if a formal organization were formed. On December 1, 1970 formal incorporation papers were filed with the Secretary of the State and the Society held its organization meeting on February 15, 1971. There were eight incorporators, one from each county in the state, and included: John Tweed, Larry Ford, Dave Macy, Howard Reynolds, Bob Ashley, Dick Symonds, Joe Herman, and Clarence Baldwin.
With the assistance of a State Economic Development Grant, extensive work by the U.S. Navy Sea Bees, and hundreds of hours of volunteer time, the Fire Museum was opened and dedicated on October 29, 1983. The building, located in the Cheney National Historic and Landmark District, was built in 1901, with a variety of additions that were added until 1912. It was occupied as a fire station until the mid-1960s, first by the South Manchester Fire District until 1954 and then by the Town of Manchester Fire Department until March 10, 1966. The Town of Manchester Fire Department was created after a consolidation of a number of independent fire districts.
Originally housing horse-drawn equipment, the firehouse was converted to a motorized station in 1910. In 1921 an Ahrens Fox pumper was purchased and placed in service in the station. Owned by the Town of Manchester, the Fox is still operational and is on display at the Museum.
A 1912 Seagrave Chemical engine, original to this firehouse, has been fully restored and is on display in the first floor apparatus display area.
The Society received its 501 (c) 3 and 509 designations from the federal government and tax exemption from the State. With organizational matters well in hand, the next effort was to establish a Museum.
Initially, the Society negotiated with the State of Connecticut for a parcel of land at the State Police complex in Meriden. Although negotiations were never completed, the extensive Baldwin and Society collections were stored there on a temporary basis.
Then Bob Weiss, Town Manager of Manchester, CT, noted in conversations with Society members that he was going to have to demolish the old 1901 fire station at the corner of Pine Street and Hartford Road in Manchester unless a use could be found for the building. After a short period of negotiations, a lease was signed on April 12, 1979 for two fifty-year periods and the Society found a permanent home for its Museum.
When the Society took control of the Fire Station building, it was in complete disrepair after a number of years of neglect, and required extensive repairs to bring it up to a usable standard.
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