Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The 125th Anniversary of the Firemen's Home

On Saturday, volunteer fire companies from across the state will be in Hudson to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the FASNY Firemen's Home.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson
The preparations along Warren Street for welcoming the firefighters to Hudson may not be as festive they were in 1902, when the picture above was taken, but a full day of events is planned at the Firemen's Home and the Museum of Firefighting, and, of course, there will be a parade, of both antique and modern firefighting equipment.

The parade of antique fire engines begins at 9:30 a.m.; the parade of fire companies, in their dress uniforms with their snappy drum lines and gleaming fire apparatus, begins at 10 a.m. The parades will take the following route through Hudson, beginning at State and Green streets and ending at the Firemen's Home: Green Street to Columbia Street to Park Place to Warren Street, then down Warren Street to Fifth Street. At Fifth Street, the parade will turn right and continue to State Street, where it will turn left. From State Street, it will turn on Short Street and continue on to Harry Howard Avenue.

A little research discovered that what is being celebrated on Saturday is not the opening of the Firemen's Home, which, according to the Mount Vernon Daily Argus, took place on June 5, 1895, without a great deal of hoopla, but the laying of the building's cornerstone, which took place on June 28, 1892. That was indeed an occasion of great celebration--a celebration that included a parade through Hudson. The following account is from the Albany Morning Express for Tuesday, June 18.

All Hudson will be in holiday attire to-day, and the population, for this day only, will be greater than it has been in years, for to-day occurs the laying of the corner-stone of the firemen's home, which will be accompanied with one of the grandest demonstrations of its kind ever seen in the Hudson valley. . . .
By direction of Robert Elting, chief engineer of the fire department of the city of Hudson, the parade will comprise four divisions, which will be formed at 12:30 o'clock in the afternoon, and the signal for moving will be the firing of a cannon at 1 o'clock.
The column will form at Court House square, with the right of the line resting on West Court street. The procession will move down Allen street, up Front to Warren, up Warren to Eighth, through Eighth to Columbia, down Columbia to Diamond, down Diamond to Fifth, through Fifth to Prospect, down Prospect to Carroll, through Carroll to Pond road and thence to the grounds of the New York State Volunteer Firemen's Home.
After the exercises attending the corner-stone laying are over, the line will re-form and march back to Pond road, thence to Carroll, to State, to Fifth, to Warren, where the parade will be dismissed.
From this description of the parade route we learn two things: (1) parade routes in 1892 were a lot longer than they are today; and (2) before it was named Harry Howard Avenue, the road leading from Carroll Street to the Firemen's Home was called Pond Road, obviously because it passed Underhill Pond, just as Bay Road on the other side of town passed South Bay. 

The history of how the Firemen's Home came to be and the details of its building appeared in the Cortland Standard for July 2, 1892, reprinted from an article that originally appeared in the Hudson Daily Register.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson
A firemen's home signifies much of interest to a large class of people in our midst, for there is scarcely a village in the Empire state that has not an organization of volunteer firemen to protect its property from conflagration. The building of the Firemen's Home at Hudson when completed will stand alone as the only institution of its kind in the country. It will be a home for those who, without recompense, have defended and protected the lives and property of citizens in various municipalities, often at the risk of their own lives, and who, from one cause or another, have no home of their own. In this building will be cared for and domiciled the indigent volunteer firemen. The need of such an institution has long been felt in New York state
The project for the erection of a home first assumed definite form at the New York State Firemen's convention at Cortland in 1888. . . .
Since 1888, at each succeeding convention, steps have been taken looking toward the completion of the Home. The annual convention at Herkimer last year endorsed the movement by a call to the state firemen for fifty cents per capita. There are over sixty thousand volunteer firemen in the state, and by these individual subscriptions, together with the fairs held at various places, they proposed to defray the expense of the building and keeping the Home in repair.
A number of meetings were held by the board of trustees, and after a careful examination of several different sites, one owned by the state located on the banks of the Hudson river, within the limits of the city of Hudson, overlooking the Catskill mountains on the west, and the Berkshire hills and the Taghkanic range of mountains on the east, affording a commanding view of the Hudson river, north and south, was selected for the location of the home. It was contemplated that the original building should cost about $30,000.
According to the plans and drawings the buildings will be of brick with stone trimmings, and in height, two stories with an attic. It will have a frontage of 118 feet, and a depth on the north of 85 feet, on the south of 34 feet 6 inches. The style of architecture will be Queen Anne. The entrance will be spacious, and over it will be placed in stone letters the inscription, "Volunteer Firemen's Home." The interior will be finished in Georgia pine, and the floors will be of the same material. There will be a central tower surmounted by a flag pole, and when completed the structure will present a handsome and imposing appearance.
There will be forty-seven rooms capable of accommodating ninety-four persons, and provisions have been made in the plans for the construction of an L which will add between thirty and forty more rooms. The rooms will be commodious and airy and equipped with all modern conveniences.
In addition there will be a spacious parlor and dining room, together with bath and toilet rooms.
The grounds surrounding the house are thirty acres in extent, and will be laid out in lawns and flower gardens. The site selected could not be better. The old firemen as they sit upon the piazza or stroll through the grounds will have command of the magnificent mountain and river view.
We quote from the closing remarks of Judge Eggleston in his oration at the laying of the corner stone on Tuesday last:
"This is an important day in the history of the volunteer firemen of the state of New York. The work of this hour is a step in advance in the organization and perpetuation of a body of men banded together for the good of the people and for the protection of property. These proceedings are watched with interest and are dear to the hearts of over fifty thousand brave firemen who believe that at last their hopes are to be realized and their prayers are to be answered; and though they may not all be present at this time, yet their thoughts are turning toward this spot this afternoon, and in spirit they are with us.
"Would that they could look upon this scene.
"This building soon to be erected, dedicated to the cause of humanity, is to be the free and voluntary gift of this body of men; it will be a monument to the liberality and generosity of those contributing to its erection, and certainly it will be the crowning act of their work in this state.
"No fireman who has ever worn the red shirt with honor and credit to himself, who, may be, has given his best energies and strength in saving the homes of others, who perhaps in the declining years of his life has been unfortunate in the loss of life or property should ever know what it is to want for a home. . . .
"A Firemen's home upon the Hudson. Why, there's melody in the words themselves.
"Oh, most beautiful river, whose waters ever keep flowing in their onward course to the sea, thy waves, when sparkling in the sunshine or lashed into fury by the storm, will year after year brighten the eye of many a faithful old fireman who will find here a refuge and a home.
"For men may come, and men may go, But you go on forever."
The original Firemen's Home, the cornerstone for which was laid 125 years ago, was designed by Hudson architect Michael O'Connor and was built facing the river, with a porch running the width of it. That building was demolished in 1965. It is impossible to tell from photographs of the building if "Volunteer Firemen's Home" appeared in stone letters over the entrance, but at some point the inscription was wrought in iron in an arch over the entrance to the grounds. That arch is now is the only pre-21st century structure of the Firemen's Home that survives.

Old Pictures of Columbia County, NY


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