Mount Holly’s small wooden old fire station was too big to fit through the door of his new home.
Thus, the gable roof should be detached, the interior walls reinforced and the bottom secured so that it does not fall on moving day.
“We wanted to make sure the whole building would stay in one piece,” mentioned Jack Abgotwho helped preserve a few fire stations and hundreds of other buildings during his 40-year career.
At just 8ft by 12ft by 11ft, the Mount Holly mini-landmark – most recently used to store gear – “is the cutest fire station I’ve ever seen”, it said. -he declares.
On Tuesday, the roof is to be removed and, along with the rest of the structure, transported approximately 100 feet to the adjacent area No. 1 Rescue Fire Company on Pine Street. The small fire station will be renovated as an exhibit in the future firefighting history center – as part of a $7 prize. 9 million project to centralize and modernize the administrative and operational facilities of the Mount Holly Fire District.
“Compared to some of the complex and unique projects we’ve handled, this is a pretty simple job,” said Jesse Paszkewicz, president of Heritage Industrial Services Inc. at Cream Ridge, Monmouth County.
The company installed artifacts in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York and also moved Petal, the elephant sculpture, from its longtime home to Burlington Mall in Burlington Township.
» READ MORE: Rescued from a condemned mall, Petal the elephant still needs a home
With the small fire station, “we’re going to take the roof off with a big telescopic forklift, put it on the ground, then pick up the main structure, put it inside [the adjacent firehouse]bring the roof and put it on top,” Paszkewicz said.
“It’s a historic building, not in very good condition, and we don’t want to damage it,” he said. “We’ll treat it like it’s priceless.”
What is now the Relief Fire Company was founded on July 11, 1752, making it “the oldest volunteer fire company in America,” said fifth-generation firefighter and district administrator Ryan Donnelly.
Two dozen firefighters, all volunteers, respond to about 600 calls a year in the three-square-mile township of 10,000 people, he said. Mount Holly is also the county seat of Burlington.
“We’re trying to preserve the history of the company and the men and women who volunteered, and we wanted to preserve the little fire station by bringing the interior in,” Donnelly said.
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Says Carl Shaw, who will celebrate his 53 years of volunteering in August: “Benjamin Franklin founded the first fire company in 1736 in Philadelphia. But this enterprise and other voluntary enterprises later became [professional] paid fire services.
“We’ve had three name changes, but we’re the oldest continuously serving volunteer fire company in the country,” he said, adding that they had logbooks, meeting minutes and records to prove it.
In a December 7, 1950 article titled “Mount Holly Company Offers Proof of Claim, It’s Oldest in the United States”, The Associated Press reported that Haddon Fire Company No. 1 in Haddonfield, which once had claimed this record., had agreed that Relief was the older of the two by a dozen years.
And just last week, Donnelly learned, via social media, that a certain Southern fire company is also claiming the title.
David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1 in Gretna, Louisiana claims it is “the oldest continuously operating volunteer fire company in the United States,” according to this company’s website. It includes a detailed account of the organization’s history – including its founding, in 1841.
“I can only stand by what my ancestors said – that we are the oldest active volunteer fire company in America,” Chief Michael Labruzza said by phone from Gretna, a suburb of New Orleans. .
“Honestly, I don’t know what else I can tell you,” said Labruzza, a third-generation volunteer firefighter. The Mount Holly Society feels “they hold that designation and they have something to back it up. And our people, long before me, said we’re the oldest and we’ve been continuously active through wars and everything else.
Saving the small Mount Holly Fire Hall and otherwise preserving the history of the four volunteer companies that are part of the fire district “is a source of pride not only for our members, but for Burlington County, which is steeped in the history,” Donnelly said.
What is now Burlington County was home to the Lenni Lenape thousands of years before Quakers and other European settlers settled what is now Mount Holly in 1677. The township is the site of the Battle of Forge Hilla skirmish on December 23, 1776, that drew Hessian troops away from the British-occupied defense of Trenton and helped bolster General George Washington’s chances of victory after crossing the Delaware two nights later.
The Burlington County Jail Historical Museum at Mount Holly is housed in an imposing building on the High Street that operated from 1811 to 1965, making it, at the time, the oldest jail in continuous use in America. The township also once housed the future Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girardwho lived and operated a store with his wife in a house that still stands on Moulin Street.
Donnelly and Shaw were on hand Friday as Abgott, the vice president of Nickles Contracting in Haddon Heights, and his two-member team prepared the small fire station for the big move.
“It’s definitely a craft, and it’s also hard work,” said Owen Donnelly, a carpenter from Edgmont, Pa., who is not related to Ryan Donnelly and has worked with Nickles for a decade.
Darrell Williams, a skilled tradesman who lives in Collingswood, said: “We’re taking our time with this because we’re trying to preserve a building. And we haven’t lost one yet.
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Abgott, who is also helping restore the judge’s cabin at Island Beach State Park, said a preliminary but inconclusive examination of the nails and saw blade patterns in the frame suggests parts of the fire station were “most likely built in the second quarter”. of the 19th century. »
In other words, the small fire station may not be as old as local lore would have it – and may be less likely to be “America’s Oldest Fire Station”, as it is sometimes described.
Ryan Donnelly and Shaw both acknowledged that the structure was moved and used for many years as a tool shed at nearby St. Andrew’s Cemetery before being returned to the Relief property in 1970.
Nonetheless, the fire district aims to have the entire project completed by July 11.
It will be “the 270th anniversary” of what is now known as Relief Fire Engine Company No. 1, Ryan Donnelly said.