| History of the Taftville Fire Company #2 Incorporated
On May 30, 1915, a disastrous fire destroyed half of the Taftville’s business
district, leaving dozen’s of families homeless.
The fire was centered on the corners of Merchants Avenue and Hunters
Avenue and left eight buildings totally destroyed.
Around 9pm on May 30, 1915, the devastating fire started in the Lincoln club,
which was located in the corner building of Merchants Avenue and Hunters
Avenue. The fire destroyed the following properties: three grocery stores, two
butcher shops, a clothing store, a confectionary store, a bakery, a drug store
and a barbershop.
The Ponemah Mill Fire Company #1, the only fire company in Taftville at the
time, responded with it’s only truck to the alarm, only to find the club building
practically destroyed and several other buildings burning out of control. It
should be noted that this fire company was owned and operated by the
Ponemah Mill and used solely for the protection of mill owned properties.
For this spectacular fire, help from the Norwich Fire Department was
requested. By the time Norwich’s firefighting equipment arrived, six building
were burning uncontrollably and two other exposures were beginning to burn.
Several times during the fire, flying embers started fires on the roof of the
Wequonnoc School, which was located directly across the street from the
While this devastating fire made permanent history in Taftville, something
good evolved from the smoking ruins.
Sometime after the fire tore through the business district, a group of property
owners got together to discuss whether or not something else should be done
in the way of fire protection for the town. It was during one of these meeting
that a local carpenter named Arthur Jeanotte volunteered to build a hose
carriage and a station house.
In 1916, the ambitious group approached the president of the Ponemah Mill
Company and requested permission to construct a small shed on an unused
portion of property located on Merchants Avenue deeded to Wequonnoc
School to house their newly constructed hose carriage.
The president agreed and the members of the group supplied funds and
building materials. Many even assisted with the construction and the Taftville
Hose Company # 2 was born.
In late 1917, following a meeting with several of the mill’s officials in Ponemah
hall, it was recommended that the property owners form a formal organization
and adopt a constitution and by-laws. As well as elect officers. It was also
recommended that they solicit funds from the area’s resident to purchase a
chemical wagon. It was the group’s ingenuity and the efforts of Phillip
Tremblay who supplied the two carriage wheels and an axle that a seventy-five
gallon chemical tank was purchased along with other accessories. These
items were purchased with the funds that had been solicited by the group and
through the efforts of the Sacred Heart Parish, which donated half of the
proceeds from their annual bazaar to pay for the chemical wagon. Neither the
hose cart nor the chemical wagons were motorized.
After the acquisition of the chemical wagon in 1917, the first firehouse was too
small for both the chemical wagon and the hose carriage to be house
together. The chemical wagon had to be stored in a barn that was owned by
some of the members of the company. This created three problems first, the
need for a modern pumper, second, the unreliability of the chemical wagon and
third the need for a larger station
In 1920, a petition was presented to the town committee for funds to build a
larger station and to purchase a modern pumper. This petition was denied on
the grounds that the Taftville Hose Company was not a constituted fire
company. For this reason on September 27, 1920, the members of the
company petitioned the General Assembly to be allowed to incorporate
themselves as the Taftville Fire Company #2, Incorporated. This was approved
on October 6, 1920. The first appropriation from the town was in the amount
of two hundred dollars.
Once again, Arthur Jeanotte supervised the construction of yet another
firehouse literally building it around the old one, which was being torn down,
as the materials were needed. The Ponemah Mills donated a new heating
system for the building, which the members installed themselves. In 1921, it
was voted that the Town of Norwich in the month of December of each year,
provide such supplies as necessary to make effective the apparatus of the
company up to and including the sum of one thousand dollars.
In 1925, the department purchased a new Maxim pumper. Unfortunately there
is no information found on this.
In 1936, the fire company felt that additional fire protection was needed in this
district, so the members got together and built another fire truck, which was
given to the town of Norwich in October of 1936. It is unknown what make or
model this truck was. Sometime in the 1930’s the Ponemah Mill Fire Company
#1 closed down and the Taftville Hose Company #2 provided fire protection for
the town. The Mill also donated to the fire company the “truck” that they had
been using. This “truck” was a 1917 Cadillac touring car that had at one time
belonged to the mill’s treasurer. The men of mill converted it over to a
chemical truck. This truck is currently on display at the Connecticut Fire
Museum in Manchester, Connecticut.
In March of 1939, the company again felt the need for a larger and more
improved firehouse. Alterations and additions were started in April and when
finished the station had an up to date firehouse, complete with a new lavatory,
showers, workroom, reading room, office, kitchen and a recreation room.
In 1966 the department had outgrown the old firehouse and began to look for
a place to build a new on. There was much discussion among the members
and even some of the town folk about where the new house should be
located. Many of the members thought that the station should remain in the
village close by the old one, while others thought it would be better to build in
the area next to the Knights of Columbus on Norwich Avenue.
The majority won out and the department requested a piece of property
across from the Wequonnoc School. This sight met with some opposition.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas Banahan, upon request of the Norwich Board of
Education voiced his concern stating that “a possibility of a traffic hazard to
the children of Wequonnoc School would be present, if the new Taftville Fire
Station were to be located directly across from the school”.
Other opposition came from the towns people themselves, stating that the
move would disrupt the play area that had been there for so many years. A
favorable petition was signed by 1157 residents of the Taftville area and in the
latter part of 1966 the petition was presented to the Norwich City Council
stating that they were in favor of relocating the firehouse to the croquet court
area of the playground.
The firefighters continued their campaign to get the new station and finally
after many battles with the City of Norwich, they prevailed. In June of 1967,
the Norwich City Council voted unanimously to locate the new station in the
croquet court area of the Taftville playground. This was the area that the
firefighters had been asking for. At the same time the council also passed a
resolution authorizing the City Manager to retain the services of Architect
Richard Sharpe to prepare plans and to write the specifications for the station.
In May of 1968, the specifications for the new station went out to bid and in
June of 1968, the bid was awarded to the Torrence Construction Company.
The total price for the project was $83,550.00. The new station was a sixty by
sixty foot building consisting of a small office, two lavatories, a fifty-foot hose
tower and a small kitchen. The new station opened in 1969, housing two
pumpers and a Packard ambulance used for “inhalator calls”. It should be
noted that at the time the “old timers” could be quoted as saying “we’ll never
outgrow this place, it’s to big”.
Little did the “old timers” know but in 1972 a small addition was added on to
the rear of the station for an emergency generator to be housed and some
storage. The second addition came again a few years later when in 1975 a one-
story addition housing a meeting room was added to the rear of the station.
Many members donated their own time to cover the block walls with barn
board and the ladies auxiliary helped decorate the new addition.
As the years went by the department the department added several new
pieces of apparatus including a mini pumper, a ladder truck, rescue truck and
a boat. As the demands of the company grew so did the lack of space. In
1989 the department added on once again, this time adding a second floor to
the existing backroom addition. This area would house the company’s records
two offices, a conference room and a small lounge area for the members. In
early 2000, The front office was renovated into a paperwork room / house
watch area to include radios,TV, VCR, and computers for internet access. The
department also built a shed to house the boat.
In 2007 the conference room was converted into office space for the four