Hopewell Borough has been served by four different fire companies, with up to three of them active at the same time in the middle 1910’s. The saga is described in the Hopewell Fire Department Anniversary booklets (see earlier post). We’ve fleshed out the story by digging into historical maps and newspaper articles for more details – although mysteries remain for the interested explorer.
== Read the full brief on the Hopewell Borough Fire Companies (PDF) ==
The first fire company in Hopewell was the Hook and Ladder Company, formed in 1877 following a major fire that destroyed the residence of Jonathan Blackwell. The H&L built a firehouse on Broad Street next to the Calvary Baptist Parsonage (before South Greenwood was cut through).
After the firehouse was destroyed in the 1893 Behre’s Hall fire, the H&L built Columbia Hall at 5 South Greenwood (later replaced by what is now the Hopewell Theater), with a community hall on the second floor. At its 31st anniversary in 1908, the H&L reported having answered 32 fires in 31 years.
The Union Fire Company was organized in 1895, as the result of concern about the H&L. Its equipment was apparently housed in the livery barns on Mercer Street at West Broad Street (behind what is now Hopewell House).
The Hopewell Herald newspaper has reports of one or both companies responding to local fires for the next two decades. The two companies finally merged into the Union Hook and Ladder Company in 1917.
The Hopewell Fire Department was organized in 1911, addressing the problem of two competing companies by starting a third. It was officially placed under Borough authority later that year. It was based in the new Fireman’s Hall building at 15 Seminary Avenue, which also had the Hopewell Free Public Library on the second floor (see earlier post on Hopewell Libraries).
In 1921, the combined Union Hook and Ladder Company merged into the Hopewell Fire Department, which then moved to Columbia Hall.
The Fire Department finally moved into its current location at the old Hopewell High School Building at 4 Columbia Avenue by 1941, which was also used as Borough Hall. The building was three stories as a High School, and then was reduced to two stories (reportedly as the result of a fire).
The building was later expanded with two additions: the fire truck bays facing Greenwood Avenue, and the EMU bays facing Columbia Avenue. The Fire Department then took over the building when Borough Hall moved to 88 East Broad Street in 2009.
And there’s yet one more fire company: the Rockwell Manufacturing Company, then a major local employer, organized the Rockwell Fire Brigade c. 1953, after donating a fire engine to the Borough in 1948. Its equipment was returned to the Fire Department in 1968.
See the full brief on the Hopewell Borough Fire Companies (PDF) for more details, including images, extracts from maps, and quotes from newspaper articles.
And please feel free to contribute your information and materials to fill in the gaps and help clarify the contradictions.
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