The historical outline below is taken from the program for the Second Annual Hamden Firemen's Memorial Service, held at Memorial Town Hall on June 10, 1934.
The History Committee for the event consisted of Messrs. Ralph Eno, Michael J. Whalen, and Harold G. Emerson.
1907 - 1924
Centerville Co. 4 (left) in 1908 (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
The Centerville Volunteer Fire Association was incorporated in 1905. In 1907, they built their first station on town property approximately where the apparatus ramp is today. It was razed when the Memorial Town Hall building was erected in 1924.
Like all of the other town volunteer fire companies at the time, the Centerville fire company was an independent fire department until the Hamden Fire Department was created by an act of the State Legislature in 1925. The act brought all of Hamden's fire companies under the umbrella of one municipal fire department.
The building to the immediate right of the fire station was razed in April 2013. The building can also be seen in the photo below, as well as in several other photos taken in later decades (see the Reilly's fire webpage, which can be accessed from the ACTION webpage).
1924 - 1940
Station 4 - c. 1925 (Photo courtesy of Wayne Chorney)
When the Memorial Town Hall was constructed in 1924, the town provided room for the Centerville fire company in the northeast corner of the new building. As can be seen in this photo taken about 1925, the fire station bays doors did not face Whitney Avenue as they do today. The bay doors were located on the north side of the station, facing School Street. After pulling out of the station, apparatus had to make a ninety-degree righthand turn in order to exit onto Whitney Avenue.
The photo above shows what Station 4 looked like before the bay doors were relocated from the School Street side to the Whitney Avenue side of the town hall. Begun in November 1939, the fire station renovation was completed in early 1940. Official Town of Hamden stationery continued to show a rendering of the pre-1940 configuration until well into the 1970s
The building at the far right was heavily damaged by fire in December 1964 and was razed shortly thereafter. Eli's-on-Whitney now occupies the building that replaced it. The building next door to the town hall with the American Legion billboard was demolished in April 2013 to make way for an extension to Eli's building.
This previously unpublished photo was taken by an employee of the United Advertising Co. around 1925. The original negative was discovered in a Whalley Avenue antique store several years ago.
Old view of Station 4 bay doors.
1938 - Squad i.f.o. old Station 4 bay doors (Photo by G. Donald Steele)
1938 - Rear view of 1938 Seagrave Canopy Cab pumper i.f.o. old Station 4 bay doors (Photo by G. Donald Steele)
1940 - 2009
Station 4 in 1940 - Asst. Chief R.C. Spencer and Ff. Edward Kromer pose with the 1938 Diamond-T "Squad" and Engine 4, a 1939 Diamond-T pumper, in front of the newly-renovated bay doors that once faced north. The plaques above the doors have yet to be installed. Photo scanned from the 1940 Hamden Town Report, courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society.
Headquarters c.1942 (Photographer unknown)
The only individual indentified in this group standing beside the 1938 Diamond-T Squad is Firefighter Joseph Marchitto (2nd from left). Can anyone ID any of the others? Department records note that the windshield on the back step of the Squad was installed in 1942.
Headquarters - Monday, June 2, 1952
June 2, 1952 - Headquarters (Photo courtesy of Richie Lostritto)
L-R: Firefighter Richard Lostritto, Capt. Paul Leddy, Firefighters Julius Norman, Joe Collins, Ray Carofano and Paul Rosadina, and "most of all trusted mascot, 'Blackie' the dog."
The 1938 Diamond-T Squad is parked in the left bay and the 1939 Diamond-T pumper in the right.
This classic photo, taken at Headquarters on June 2, 1952, was sent to the website by retired Supt of Alarms and Apparatus Richie Lostritto. Richie sent along more than a dozen more photos and news articles that will be posted in the near future. Thank you, Richie!!
March 22, 1954 - Ff. Richie Lostritto on watch at HQ
c. 1940 - Company 4 Volunteers (Photo courtesy of Tom Doherty)
November 1963 - Engine 4 and Rescue 2 are out! (Vaccaro photo)
With the exception of the antique upholstered chair used by the watchman and the old rotary dial telephone, this is pretty much the way the apparatus floor looked the day Station 4 closed for renovations 46 years later.
Note that the Link speaker and ship's wheel barometer, which can be seen in the color photo above of Richie Lostritto, taken nearly ten years earlier. The window between the Alarm Room and the apparatus floor was added in 1958 and may account for why the watch desk seen in the 1954 photo was gone by late 1963.
Station 4 - November 1963 - Clockwise L-R: Paul Reutenauer, Gil Spencer, John Hoffman, and Milner Benham (Vaccaro photo)
Memorial Town Hall in the 1960s
This postcard photo (c. 1960) is a nice view of Memorial Town Hall. Notice the electric "HAMDEN" sign above the entrance. It was placed there for Hamden's 1936 sesquicentennial and remained until the late 1960s.
Grace Episcopal Church can be seen in its original location on the north side of Dixwell Avenue, right next to the town hall. The Town bought the church's property for future expansion (now in progress) and the church building was moved across Dixwell Avenue to its present location 45 years ago this month. The website thanks Kris Beirne for preserving the remarkable photos below, taken by I.A. Sneiderman, and for donating the images to the HFRA.
c. 1962 - Headquarters - Rescue 2 (1960 International) and Engine 4 (1954 Maxim 750). The 1958 and 1957 Fords at right look fairly new. (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
September 1966 (Photo by I.A. Sneiderman - courtesy of Kris Beirne)
September 1966 - Except for the 1960 Dodge in the background, this photo looks like it could have been taken this past week, as work on Station 4 renovations continues into its third year. This 1966 photo shows the PW folks rebuilding the parking area on the north side of Station 4.
Fire safety in the home sometimes starts in a fire station (Photo courtesy of Tom Doherty)
May 1971 - One of the best ways to promote fire safety in the home is through public education programs directed at elementary school children. We've all done it many times. Here, Lt. Tom Doherty gives school kids the grand tour of Station 4, starting with the 1968 Maxim S-model 1000 GPM pumper.
May 1971 - Getting Ready for the Parade (Photo courtesy of Tom Doherty)
An annual ritual for all Hamden firefighters is to freshen up apparatus cosmetics for the Memorial Day Parade. By May 1971, the International Travel-al that had been Rescue 2 since 1960 was getting pretty tired. It was replaced six months later. Bob Viglione and Walt Macdowall are seen here performing routine pre-parade cosmetic maintenance. (Until November 1971, "Rescue 2" was the designation of the rescue unit assigned to Station 4.)
1971 was the first year that federal law set the date for Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. From 1868 until 1970, Memorial Day was always observed on May 30th regardless of the day of the week.
c. 1973 - Lt. Gil Spencer and Ff. Bob Kenney atop Engine 4 (looks like the '68 Maxim)
c. 1973 - Chief V. Paul Leddy's 1968 Chrysler i.f.o. Headquarters. The Chief and Fire Marshal shared a small office on the second floor of Memorial Town Hall, at the top of the north stairwell. (Photo courtesy of Clark Hurlburt) CLICK to enlarge.
1985 stern view of Engine 4 (Photo by Ed Doiron, Jr.) CLICK to enlarge
June 1982 - Ffs. Dennis Cosgrove and Bob Viglione, with Lieut. Bill Coppola, sprucing up Engine 4 at the start of the day. (Photo by John Tramontano)
April 1988 - Station 4, Platoon 2 - L-R: Ron Desroches, Bill Fitzmaurice, Bob Anthony, Harold Prescher, Capt. Mike Ambriscoe, and Cmdr. Joe McDermott. (CLICK to enlarge)
May 1983 - The 5-6 p.m. "mill." Rich Mayhew and Don Buechele, as we were waiting for the night shift to show up. (CLICK to enlarge)
1985 - Platoon 4, Station 4 - (L-R): Firefighters Bob Surprise, George Patten, Don Buechele, John Longo and Lt. Dave Strawhince. The 1000 GPM Pierce Dash pumper was only a few months old. It was recently sold for scrap. Photo courtesy of Dave Strawhince (Posted 7/29/11)
September 1991 - Cmdr. Joe McDermott's Final Day on the Job
Joe McDermott commanded Platoon Two from May 1973 until his retirement at the end of September 1991. On the final day of Platoon 2's day shift, September 27, 1991, Chief John Tramontano escorted Cmdr. McDermott to all fire stations so his guys could wish him a happy, healthy and long retirement. Joe is now living in Branford and is still going strong.
Pictured L-R: Capt. Dave Johnson, Ron Desroches, Bob Anthony, Cmdr. Bill Coppola, Cmdr. McDermott, Chief Tramontano, Bill Fitzmaurice, Ed Doiron, and Jim Dunlop. (Photo taken by Bob Macauley)
August 21, 1993 - Station 4 - Capt. Dave Johnson, Ff. Jim Dunlop, Cmdr. Bill Coppola, Ff. Bob Anthony, Ff. Rich "Rambo" Maybury and Ff. Ron Desroches.
The End of an Era!
(for the time being) Old Station 4 Closes
Tuesday, September 22 - At approximately 3:45 this afternoon Station 4 was vacated as the Squad and its three-man crew rolled down the ramp onto Whitney Avenue and headed to a new temporary home at Station 3, as work soon begins on a complete renovation of the apparatus floor and living quarters. This will be the first major structural renovation of Station 4 since 1940, when the bay doors were moved to face Whitney Avenue and the Alarm Room was added.
Until the job is done, the Squad will run out of Station 3. Rescue 1 will run out of Station 5. With Station 4 closed, Engines 2, 5 and 9 will have expanded first alarm territories for the duration of the renovation, which is expected to take from 18 to 24 months.
The spiral staircase and sliding pole were unique to Station 4. The pole afforded a somewhat more expeditious way of getting to the apparatus floor (vs. the spitral staircase).
Anyone who ever worked there had to learn just how to slide the pole. And doing it in short sleeves could be challenging.
L-R: Firefighters Craig Smart, Ed Hilbert and Lt. Dave Proulx pose on the apparatus floor next to the only sliding pole ever installed in a Hamden fire station. Less than fifteen minutes later, these three guys mounted the Squad as the last crew to leave "old" Station 4. In 18 to 24 months, a totally "new" Station 4, in the same location, will be ready for occupancy. Although the spiral staircase will be gone, there will be a pole.
The Squad leaves 4's (as we knew it) for the last time
Station 4 Renovation (2009 - ?) Late 2011 Update
Until two years ago, fire department apparatus had been stationed on Whitney Avenue in Centerville since Company 4 was organized in 1907. From 1908 until 1924, Company 4 was quartered in a two-and-a-half story wood frame building on the north side of the old town hall.
When the Memorial Town Hall was built in 1924, a new fire station was incorporated into the northeast corner of the building. Company 4 was provided with a meeting room in the new building, which their members continued to use until the last member passed away in the 1990s.
The fire station at Memorial Town Hall was officially "Fire Headquarters" until the chief's office was relocated to the old Centerville School (now Miller Library) in 1974, at which time the town hall fire station became "Station 4." The chief's office returned to the town hall in the late 1970s, occupying two different basement areas until 1989. But Station 4 remained "Station 4."
In an article published in The New Haven Register on March 14, 1966, Chief V. Paul Leddy noted that the town hall fire station, "is too old and too small to accommodate the proper apparatus, offices and living quarters." The same month, a Hamden Chronicle editorial referred to the station as "inadequate and poorly located," a opinion shared by many in the department in the four-plus decades since.
Today, a multi-million dollar addition to Memorial Town Hall is in progress. The project includes a renovation of the fire station - the first since 1940. When the job is done, it will be interesting to see how Chief Leddy's concerns of 45 years ago have been addressed.
Since September 22, 2009, Station 4 apparatus have been temporarily reassigned to other quarters. The Squad (formerly Engine 4) is at Station 3 and Rescue 1 is assigned to Station 5. Original estimates for the completion of the renovation of Station 4 were eighteen to 24 months. Station 4 is now expected to reopen sometime after January 2012. We'll keep you posted.
Station 4, Back in Service
Squad 1 and Rescue 1 return home after 1,000 day station renovation
9/22/09 - Squad One Leaving 4's
6/18/12 - 1,000 days later - Squad 1 is back!
Rescue 1, Squad 1 and Car 30
Station 4's new day room upstairs. Hard to believe it's the same place!
2009 - "C'mon over!"
In the early afternoon of Tuesday, September 22, 2009, I received a phone call from my old friend Gil Spencer. "If you want to get some pictures of Station 4 before it closes, you'd better hurry up. They'll be outta there by four this afternoon."
Within a few minutes, my wife Barb and I were across from the 85-year old Centerville fire station snapping photos. Rescue 1 had already moved to Station 5. Lt. Dave Proulx and his crew were preparing Squad 1 for the move to Station 3. While waiting for traffic to clear, so I could get a good shot of the front of the station, Dave came outside and waved us across. "Hey, Cap," he called, "C'mon inside and get a few more!"
Thanks to Lt. Proulx and Firefighters Ed Hilbert and Craig Smart, I took one last tour through a place that had been a home away from home for scores, perhaps hundreds, of other Hamden firefighters and me since 1924.
Station 4 has undergonemany changes through the years, most of them just minor cosmetic tweaks to its ancient decor. I remember when, as kids, Jim Mathis and I hung around Station 4 - Wilbur Baker would kick us out - and we watched the window being installed between the alarm room and the apparatus floor. Most of us retirees remember the creative paneling job done to the upstairs in the early 80s by the two PW craftsmen whom we affectionately dubbed "Cheech and Chong." And many department members still on the job today remember when the kitchen was moved from one end of the basement to the other. However, nothing, not even the 1939-40 relocation of the bay doors, compares with the changes to Station 4 that occurred during the last 1,000 days.
The classic spiral staircase is gone, replaced by a conventional stairway. A new brass pole, with proper safety guard upstairs, has replaced the original brass pole that was installed when the building was new.
The offices, kitchen and living spaces now are all together on the second floor. No more traipsing down two flights of stairs (and up again) to get a cup of coffee. Yes, that fine K-Mart carpeting and those exquisite eighth-inch paneled walls, courtesy of Grossman's (or was it Rickel?), will be missed. But the loss of such historic detailing was definitely worth it.
The officers' and firefighters' quarters - floors, walls and ceiling - are bright, comfortable and clean. Everyone has his or her own locker. A modern kitchen facility now occupies the same space where several bunks once stood. A brand new washer and dryer are located in one of the several bathroom-shower areas. All of these facilities are only a few steps away from the day room.
For the first time since 1974, the fire chief's office is once again on the second floor of the building, adjacent to the living quarters. Instead of the "phone booth" that Chiefs Spencer and Leddy had to share with the Marshal and their secretary, Mrs. Flagge, Chief Berardesca, Deputy Chief Surprise and both secretaries now have their own spacious office areas.
With this renovation, it would appear that the fire department's occupancy on the second floor of the old town hall has expanded at least three-fold. The project took about a year longer than anticipated, but the results are nice. (Now, town fathers and mothers, when do we get a new HQ?)
We wish our active HFD brothers and sisters a safe and healthy future in their new quarters. (Dave J.)
Check out the photos below.
Outer office areas for the secretaries
Chief Berardesca in his new office, just waiting for the stuff.
Deputy Chief's Office
One of four firefighters' bunks . . .
. . .and two more.
Lt. Gary Merwede in the new day room. He and and his crew were helping with the move.
A few before and after shots
2009 - Officers' Quarters
Officers' Quarters - 2012
The old day room after it was vacated in 2009
Approximately the same view - 2012
East wall of old bunkroom - 2009
Same view - 2012
After the horrendous June flood of 1982, the fire department purchased several metal flat bottom rowboats. One of them (pictured above) was stored at Station 4, suspended from the ceiling above Engine 4. On a warm summer night in 1983, when boredom overcame a one-horned prankster who was stationed there, the tiny vessel was christened with stick-on letters as a tribute to a non-uniformed department member. The boat still hung there well into the 1990s.