Port Washington Volunteer Fire Department:
Flower Hill Hose Company
At the beginning of the twentieth century Port Washington, once a small community of fishermen, baymen, farmers and sand mining operations; a retreat for vacationing people from the city; and summer home to the wealthy on their large estates; was suddenly becoming a community on the move. Those vacationers had a lot to do with the coming expansion. Many people wondered why they couldn't live in Port Washington all year around and commute into the city, and why workers needed on the estates and sand mines could not reverse that commute. The problem was transportation. The only methods were boats and horse drawn wagons, not a very fast means of transportation. Entrepreneurs came to the same conclusions. In 1898 the Long Island Railroad brought a spur from New York City into Port Washington which enabled easy and quick access to and from the peninsula and the communities in between.
The spur came down the middle of the peninsula ending at Flower Hill Avenue. Flower Hill Avenue (now Main Street) was nothing more than a dirt road connecting the farms in the area with the shoreline and the existing village. Middle Neck Road (now Port Washington Boulevard) was a country lane connecting the farms in that area and towns to the south.
The coming of the railroad created tremendous changes on the peninsula. The train line now caused a shift in the center of town and a building boom with the farms being sold off for the development of homes and businesses. The population shifted along with the density of buildings. All of this caused a great need for additional fire protection.
Atlantic Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, formed in 1886, and Protection Engine Company No. 1, formed in 1892, were both located in the old part of town by the shoreline. Although their location might not seem a distance by today's standards, one would have to consider that the roads were dirt and the fire fighting equipment was hand drawn unless someone offered their horse.
Additional Fire Protection For A Growing Community
A group of citizens plainly saw the need for additional fire protection in the growing community. Under the guidance and leadership of Frederick J. Snow, a retired Battalion Chief of the Brooklyn Fire Department who had recently moved to Port Washington, a new fire company was organized. The newly formed fire company took its name from the Flower Hill section of town which was located in the area of the train station to Middle Neck Road (Port Washington Boulevard) and Flower Hill Avenue, which in later years would become Main Street.
The first official organizational meetings were held on February 23 and March 23, 1905 at the grocery store of John A. Smith, corner of Maryland and Flower Hill Avenues, with Frederick J. Snow as Chairman. At the February meeting Mr. Smith was appointed acting Treasurer and Charles K. Bradley as acting Secretary. A motion was carried "That after to-night all new members shall pay an initiation fee of fifty cents and those members shall be voted upon by the charter members and three Black Balls bars him from membership." In addition, a motion was carried that George B. Stoddard, a local attorney, file the necessary papers for incorporation, with the assistance of Judge Isaac M. Allen (PW Justice of the Peace and Town of North Hempstead Councilman). At the March meeting William C. Knowlton, John E. Johnson and Levi P. Munson were elected Trustees to act as legal representatives in creating a corporation.
At the March 28, 1905 Town of North Hempstead Board Meeting the following resolution was adopted: "Whereas, Levi Munson; John E. Johnson; William C. Knowlton; John H.(A.) Smith; Henry W. Hults; Charles Anderson; John Hutchinson; William Rode; Julius Kleisrath; Philip E. Brown; Charles K. Bradley; Clarence E. Smith and Frederick J. Snow, have presented to the Town Board and application for leave to incorporate as a hose company for the purpose of aiding in the extinguishment of fires occurring within the territory constituting the unincorporated village of Flower Hill, in the Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County, New York:
Resolved that the consent of the Town Board of said Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County, New York, be and the same is hereby given to the establishment and incorporation of said company." (Minutes of Town Board)
Although the resolution indicates the "unincorporated village of Flower Hill" it should not be confused with the present day Incorporated Village of Flower Hill. At the turn of the Twentieth Century Port Washington was comprised of little sections, called villages or hamlets. The present day area from the train station to the intersection of Main Street and Port Washington Boulevard and south consisted of farms with many orchards and was referred to as Flower Hill due to all the blossoming apple and cherry trees.
The Certificate of Incorporation from New York State was officially granted on April 4, 1905.
The New Company Takes Form
With the corporation papers approved Flower Hill Hose Company could now act as a legal fire company. In order to raise operating capital, at the April 7th meeting members were appointed to solicit funds by "subscription," in New York City and in the community.
At the May 1st meeting the following members were elected to office:
Captain- Frederick J. Snow
1st Lt. – William Knowlton
2nd Lt. – C. K. Bradley
Recording Secretary – Burtis H. Monfort
Financial Secretary – Arthur H. Silleck
Treasurer – John A. Smith
Janitor – Charles Wansor
Flower Hill was organized, in part, with the assistance of some former members of Atlantic and Protection, which would have eased any tension. A natural question would be the reaction of the two existing fire companies to this new organization. There does not appear to have been any animosity and all three fire companies immediately started working together and cooperating with each other.
At the June 5th company meeting two committees were appointed – one for building and one for hose and other necessary equipment.
First Firehouse & Equipment
The Building Committee immediately secured a piece of property at the southwest corner of Middle Neck Road and Flower Hill Avenue (currently the location of North Fork Bank ) on loan from Barney Jacobs for the location of a firehouse. The members built the one story firehouse in June of 1905. Labor was contributed by the members as well as much of the building materials. It consisted of a small truck room for the hose carriage and an area for the members to meet.
The hose carriage arrived in May of 1905 and had a large reel for the hose (200') and was equipped with buckets. When an alarm sounded the first clang of the bell would bring the volunteers out of their houses, shops and offices in a mad scramble for the firehouse. In those days the buckets were used as often as the hose lines in extinguishing the fires. The hose could be attached to one of the few existing fire hydrants and stretched to the scene, or, as was more often the case, attached to Protection's pumper. Frequently, the fire would have had too much of a head start for the volunteers to do much good and the practice was for some of the first members arriving at the scene to try and save contents by removing objects from the building. The hand cart was drawn by the members, or anyone else available, and pulled to the scene of the fire. Of course the ideal situation was for someone to lend their horse. The company minutes of August 7, 1905 included the following, "A motion made and carried that the first person who hitches his horse to the apparatus and draws it to a fire outside of one-half mile from the Company's quarters shall receive $2.00 for so doing." A notice reading the same was placed in the Port Washington News.
With the current firehouse being located on land loaned to the company it did not take Flower Hill long to find a suitable and more central location. At the December 4, 1905 company meeting "A motion was made and carried that the Trustees be empowered to look into the matter of purchasing a lot of Mr. Mullon and if one is found desirable to purchase the same and transact all necessary business connected with the same."
On December 27, 1905, a lot was purchased on Railroad Avenue (now known as Haven Avenue) for the sum of $400 from Susan R. Mullon. This would now make it possible for the company to own their land and have their firehouse in the center of the thriving community that was in need of greater fire protection and closer to the members' homes. To help pay for the property the Ladies Aid Society, which would become the Ladies Auxiliary, donated $100 which they had raised through various fund raising activities. The company used $50 from its operating funds and on January 8, 1906 signed a mortgage of $250 with John A. Smith. Mr. Smith was a charter member and the company treasurer. The first meetings were held in his grocery store. During the first year of operation the company itself raised $850.55 in donations.
An interesting feature of the deed was the wording, "…shall not at any time hereafter traffic or permit any traffic of spirituous, malt or vinous liquors upon said premises, nor establish or permit to be established thereon, a hotel, blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, Church or factory…" The Mullon Family had cause to insure none of these activities took place as they owned the very large Victoria Hotel and Hall immediately adjacent to the proposed firehouse. They did not want possible competition in the sale of liquor, obvious hotel accommodations, they had their own blacksmith and wheelwright shops, nor did they want a factory next to their hotel. And they certainly did not want a church that might have objections to the lively activities of the hotel.
The company hired J. Cox for $75 to move the firehouse from its present location to the new site, but first had to "blast" rock from the new property. "Flower Hill Hose Company moved its headquarters this week to the lot recently purchased south of the Victoria Hotel. The building was taken from the Jacobs property to the new site without any mishap." (Port News June 9, 1906)
In a little over a year Flower Hill was able to satisfy the mortgage on the property. "Flower Hill Hose Company held its monthly meeting last Monday night. A feature of the evening was the burning of a mortgage on the company's property, which leaves the organization free and clear of debt, and there is a good surplus in the treasury. Much credit is due the Entertainment Committee…and the membership in general." (Port News – March 9. 1907)
Interestingly during these early years there were constant expressions of thanks to the Entertainment Committee. Since the formation of the company this committee was an extremely important part of running the company as they were responsible for generating operating money through fund raising activities. Without them the company could not financially exist. In addition, a major force that was greatly relied upon was the Ladies Auxiliary.
In these early years Flower Hill, like the other fire companies, obtained operating funds through dues and fund raising activities such as picnics, dinners and dances in a large part through the efforts of the "Ladies." In September of 1905 they were referred to as the "Ladies' Aid Society of the Flower Hill Hose Company." It wasn't until February and March of 1909 when they officially became the Ladies Auxiliary of Flower Hill Hose Company No. 1. In addition to providing the company funds on a regular basis for incidentals there were additional areas, such as: donating $100 toward the purchase of the building lot (which was one-quarter of the total cost); hose and equipment; donated $700 then $200 towards the cost of the new firehouse in 1908/09; provided almost half the cost of the Stoddard-Dayton, the first motorized fire truck, and a few years later bought tires for it; mechanical repairs to the fire truck; providing funds to put an extension on the rear of the firehouse; the company's fire banner; to name a few items. For unknown reasons they disbanded in September of 1914 and it would not be until later years that a new ladies auxiliary would be organized.
At the May 4, 1908 company meeting a building committee was appointed and plans for the new building were drafted by Philip Scherrer. It was not until November 2, 1908 that a contract was awarded to Eugene E. Carpenter in the amount of $1253.43. With incidentals the total cost came to $1435.43. Also at that November meeting a motion was made and carried that the trustees be empowered to raise a mortgage of eight hundred dollars at 6% and at the December 7th meeting a motion was made to raise the mortgage to $900 if it becomes necessary. Once again a mortgage was secured through charter member John A. Smith, the treasurer of the company.
The building was two stories with clapboard siding, consisting of an apparatus room on the first floor and a meeting hall on the second. A cement ramp in front of the apparatus room was donated by Charles F. Huebener. There was a cupola on the roof which held the alarm bell and could be rung by a rope extended to the right outside front of the building. A flag pole was on top of the cupola. There were two stoves for heat, one on each floor.
Members donated lamps, chairs, tables and mats to name a few items and if they wanted a key for the firehouse it would cost them 25 cents! A piano was purchased for all the entertainment activities.
Although the building was completed in December it was not accepted by the company until the January 4, 1909 meeting. However, the members took full advantage and held a party on New Year's Eve. It might be noted this was the beginning of a long standing tradition of Flower Hill hosting a New Year's Eve party.
Abundantly proud of their new building the company scheduled an open house for the public. "The headquarters of Flower Hill Hose Co. No. 1, presented a dandy appearance on Washington's Birthday, when thrown open to public inspection. Quite a few visitors were present and express their admiration in the highest terms of the Company's new home. (Port News, February 26, 1909)
Each year the trustees were required to give an inventory of the company property. Some items listed in the 1910 inventory and the value of the company might put life in perspective compared to today. The inventory was valued at $4,368.77 and the total value of the company was $4,511.43, which meant there wasn't much money in the bank.
In July of 1914 the company petitioned the Town of North Hempstead requesting that their headquarters be designated as the polling place for the newly created District 11. Prior to the creation of this district all the citizens in the area had to vote a great distance away in Liberty Hall on Carlton Avenue. In September Flower Hill was officially designated and continues to be a polling place today. This created a new source of revenue for the company ($30 per day) and was wholeheartedly endorsed by the members.
After years of pulling the hose carriage, or trying to find horses, the company had decided to venture into the "new" world of automobiles.
Port’s First Motorized Fire Apparatus
At the October 3, 1910 meeting Chief Snow proposed the company purchase an automobile or chassis that could be converted into a hose truck in order to respond to fires more quickly.
Captain Bauer reported at the December 5, 1910 meeting that he and 2nd Lieutenant Taylor had located a "machine" for fire purposes and with Chief Snow had inspected it. It was a Stoddard-Dayton, 40 HP, 1906 model touring car, at a cost of $450. At this same meeting Chief Snow recommended that the company make available their own bonds to raise money for the new "auto fire truck," for a total of $210, paying four percent interest, semi-annually on the first day of June and December, with the bonds maturing on or before December 1, 1912. Fourteen members bought the bonds with three of the members donating theirs back to the company. The company paid $60 and the balance was made available by the Ladies Auxiliary. The first motorized fire apparatus in Port Washington was purchased by Flower Hill on December 12, 1910.
The members now had to go to work in converting the touring car into a hose truck. They worked day and night with a vote of thanks to John E. Coles, Foreman of Protection, for his "kindness" in donating his services as a blacksmith on the construction of the new "machine." In addition, many members and town people donated various items to upgrade the machine.
At the February 7, 1911 meeting – The "Committee on auto machine reported that new truck was now ready for duty." It was painted white with gold lettering and carried a ladder, buckets, 500 feet of hose, extinguishers, and assorted firefighting tools. It weighed 3,440 pounds.
Captain Bauer gave out some instructions in regard to the "new auto truck": The member who takes the "machine" out to a fire must stay in charge of the "machine" unless he is replaced by orders from the officer in charge of the company, and the member who takes the "machine" out to a fire is in charge of company if no officer is present. It was also the order of the Captain that "this company pass no jeers to other companies if they have to pass them going to a fire. Above all things I want this company to act like gentlemen." Only six members were allowed on the "machine" when responding to fires. Despite the advantages of the new fire truck the old hose carriage continued to be used.
No one seemed to know what to call this new mechanical marvel. Various words were used to describe the new machine - "auto truck," "auto machine," "hose truck," "automobile fire truck," "automobile truck," "auto fire truck". It seems in the beginning it was referred to as the "machine" more than anything else, and eventually everyone got comfortable in calling it a fire truck.
In addition to the local tournaments and parades Flower Hill would travel out of town on occasions to such places as Roslyn, Manhasset, Hicksville, and Glen Cove to name a few. Needless to say, in those days travel was difficult and going out of town with any of the fire vehicles was complicated. The general rule was the companies would rotate on who would attend out of town events. It was rare that more than one company would go out of town at a time.
By 1914 the Stoddard fire truck was starting to experience mechanical problems and was becoming unreliable. Receiving funds from the town fire contract enabled the company to purchase a one and a half ton Garford truck, with a speed of 20 mph carrying hose, ladders and twelve men for a cost of $2,050. Once again, the members helped with the finances by purchasing bonds from the company and the Stoddard would be traded in to reduce the price. The Garford proved to be a reliable vehicle and would remain with the company until 1923 when it would be replaced by a pumper. It should be noted that the old "original" hose carriage was still being used as of March of 1919 and the minutes indicate it would be "retained for future use."
The early stages of an engineering staff began to evolve in July of 1916. The company realized the need for the Garford to be maintained on a regular basis. A motion was carried that 12 men would be appointed and notified by the recording secretary of such appointment. They would be known as the "Apparatus Committee" and would serve for one month and perform the following duties: After each fire or within 24 hours thereafter the committee would arrange to wash the truck, clean the hose, refill all lamps and fire extinguishers, examine gasoline tank and refill if necessary, examine the engine for oil level, examine the radiator and refill with water if necessary. A member failing to report for duty would be fined 25¢.
First Of Many “Mack” Pumpers
In April of 1922 Flower Hill purchased its first pumper, a triple combination, 75 horse power, six ton vehicle from the Mack Fire Apparatus Company, which necessitated putting an additional bay onto the fire house.In continuing their efforts to modernize, the company purchased a Mack two and one-half ton chemical and hose truck with high pressure in September of 1925. In August of 1928 another new Mack was purchased that was capable of pumping 1000 gallons of water per minute and replaced the Mack purchased in 1922.
Flower Hill Hose Company entered the 1930s by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the company with a dinner dance at the Knickerbocker Yacht Club on May 3rd. As the original fire house had outlived numerous alterations and additions it became impossible to accommodate the new and larger equipment. Plans were already being presented for a new fire house by architect Colonel LeRoy Barton in 1930. On September 10, 1931 a bid was accepted from Hutchinson & Strockbine for the construction.The old fire house was demolished in October and work on the new building began immediately with all the fire trucks being moved to various quarters around town.
On December 31, 1931, Flower Hill's first captain, a charter member and the first chief of the Port Washington Fire Department, Frederick J. Snow, laid the cornerstone. With great pleasure and promise the company held its first meeting in the new building on January 4, 1932 and a public inspection was held two weeks later. They even managed to pay off the mortgage by 1935.
As Port Washington grew Flower Hill was ever conscious of the necessity of safeguarding the community against fires and emergencies of all kinds. The modernization of the equipment was always considered essential and a priority. On April 3, 1939 a new Mack 80, with a 750 gallon capacity was delivered. The Ford V-8 had been converted with a 300 gallon booster truck in 1934, and with the 1928 1,000 gallon Mack pumper Flower Hill was more than capable of handling any emergencies.
World War II
The 1940s brought World War II and a new way of life. The manpower of the company was greatly depleted as many members went off to war. Temporary firemen were appointed to help the regular members not only with fires but many other obligations the town was faced with in Civil Defense activities. Once the War had ended and the members started returning in1945, the company was faced with an abundance of repairs on the building and the equipment.
Also, the 1940s saw a major revision of the company by-laws creating a staff of administrative officers separate from the line-duty officers and the position of President. Up to this point the Captain had run the company both in administration and fire duty. The creation of the new positions freed the Captain and the other line officers to concentrate on fire related areas only. Ex-Captain Ransom House was elected the first President.
In 1951 the company purchased a Mack 85 pumper with booster replacing the twenty-five year old 1928 Mack.
1955 marked the company's 50th Anniversary and service to the community. A parade was held on Friday, April 1st with a dinner at the North Hempstead Country Club in October. Captain Burtis Monfort stated, "During the different stages of growth we have always given modestly and earnestly to the safeguarding of the Community, with the best possible equipment and the most competent men."
In 1965 the building next to the fire house was purchased and the parking lot expanded. A major renovation was undertaken in 1997 when the building was reconfigured to widen access to the apparatus room and to expand the administrative offices.
Through the decades the members of Flower Hill Hose Company have exhibited skill and camaraderie on the drill course and the softball field. The company's drill team, the "Runts", won many tournaments setting New York State records on several occasions. In the late 1960's Flower Hill joined with Protection Engine Company in creating the "Road Runners" drill team winning the New York State tournament in 1969. Eventually Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company would join the team and capture another state championship in 1973.
The company softball team participated in many organized leagues in town during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and produced some of the finest players in town. In the 1950s the Flower Hill team combined into one Port Washington Fire Department team winning six New York State championships in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
2006 marked the 100th anniversary of Flower Hill Hose Company No. 1.