About us
 

 

History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The building located at Ninth and Harry has been replaced by the new building constructed in 2003 at 819 Fayette Street.  The building pictured above was the engine room and fire station since 1907.

 

 

The Gamewell Alarm Board saw service in the borough until the early 1970's when the system was decommissioned by borough council.  The alarm system would sound out a numeric code on air horns mounted on the roof of the firehouse.  Volunteers and residents throughout town kept a poster which showed all of the code numbers and the corresponding street intersection.  The alarm panel has been restored and moved into the new fire station early in 2004.

 

A History of the Conshohocken Fire Company No.2  

     In early 1903 a group of 16 men met in Ben Kay’s kitchen and decided that the town of Conshohocken was in need of a second fire company.  Three fires, one at Judge Jim Holland’s house, one at the J. E. Lee Surgical Works, and one in Ben Kay’s kitchen on election day of 1902, convinced the men to take action.  On March 2, 1903, the group, now 26 in number, filed a petition for charter with the Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas. The request was approved by Judge H. K. Weand and on April 27, 1903 they received a written charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

     The fledgling fire company obtained a hose wagon, 500 feet of hose and two nozzles, which they housed in a garage in the rear of Dr. Thomas’ residence located between 6th and 7th Ave. on Fayette Street.  The Lee Surgical Works loaned the Company use of its horses until they could buy horses of their own. Meetings were moved from the Kay’s kitchen to the cigar store of Irving Nuss, the Company’s first Vice President.  This move was short lived as a rapidly growing membership caused the meetings to be moved to Toner’s Hotel located where the Pizza Time Saloon now stands.  Sometime in 1904, the Company purchased land and moved to Ninth Ave. and Harry St. occupying a garage that was on the property.  On this site the Company erected what was, at that time, considered a modern and comfortable fire house with wooden floors in the wagon bays, a tin ceiling and electric light in the meeting room.  The “hose house”, as it was called, was dedicated in May 1906. Two horses and a new chemical hose wagon, now owned by the company, were housed here. 

     Ten short years later the days of the horse drawn fire wagon were over.  The membership of “TWO’S” saw the need to modernize and the first of the machines were purchased. A 1916 Locomobile Chemical Combination truck and a Simplex Engine equipped with a Hale pump were placed into service by the company.  The Simplex was replaced in 1921 with a Hale White pumper.  In 1925 a Mort Ambulance was purchased by the company and properly equipped by the Ladies’ Auxiliary.  This was the first free ambulance service in Montgomery County.  A Hale Salvage truck was also purchased in 1925.  This addition caused insurance underwriters to lower premiums for residents and businesses in town.  It gave Conshohocken one of the best fire protection ratings and the lowest insurance rates in the state.  

     Throughout the 1930’s the men of No.2 continued to keep the most modern of apparatus in the company’s engine room.  A 1933 Hale engine with a 750 gpm pump was added and in 1937 a Diamond “T” replaced the Hale salvage truck.   

     1941 saw the purchase of an Autocar pumper to replace the aging Hale White.  The “41” went on to serve the company for thirty four years, longer than any other apparatus.  After World War II with an apparatus fleet consisting of a 1933 Hale, a 1941 Autocar, both with 750 gpm pumps, and a 1937 Diamond “T” that had been converted into a squad truck, the men of No. 2 set out to modernize once again.  The Diamond “T” was replaced with a 1953 Autocar that had a state of the art three stage pump and high pressure fog nozzles.  Truck “J”, the Willy’s jeep was added in 1954 to carry men and equipment (Click HERE for an interesting article regarding the "J") and in 1962 a Hahn with a Cincinnati cab replaced the ‘33 Hale.   

     The 1941 Autocar was finally replaced in 1975 by the Sanford. One of the first diesel powered 1000 gallon per minute pumpers in the county.  An air cascade truck was purchased in 1972 to refill airpacks on the fire scene and carry additional men and equipment. It was one of the first of its kind and was called upon to assist many area fire companies over the years.  The purchase of two Hamerly engines was made possible in 1979 with the Borough’s cooperation and the use of urban redevelopment funds.  The Sanford “35-23” has been replaced by “Engine 35” a 1999 Ferrara.

      The trucks were not the only thing modernized over the years.  Our building has changed with the passing of time.  When the Company started, the first few business meetings were held in Benjamin Kay’s house.  By the time the written charter had arrived from the state, meetings were being held in Nuss’ Cigar Store due to the size of the membership.  In 1904 the property at 9th and Harry St. was purchased.  There was a garage on the site to house the hose wagon but no meeting place.  Meetings were held in Toner’s Hotel until 1906 when the men completed construction of the Fire house.  In 1922 the company installed the Auto Call Fire Alarm Coding System to alert members when there was a fire and where the fire was located.  A third engine bay was added to the fire house for the ambulance which was purchased in 1925.  The Borough of Conshohocken installed the Gamewell Fire Alarm System in the town in 1928, and the company replaced the Auto Call System with the latest in Gamewell equipment, building the custom alarm board that still stands in the engine room today.  Overhead opening doors were installed and tied to the Gamewell system so they would open automatically when a fire was reported.  The brick sidewalk was replaced with concrete to improve the appearance of the building. 

    During the depression members in need of work were hired to improve the building.  The wooden floor in the engine room, which could not support the motorized apparatus, was removed.  A basement was dug by hand and a concrete floor was poured.  Reportedly the builders tied together bed springs, bicycle frames, car springs and whatever else they could acquire for reinforcing rods. The hose tower was constructed around this time as well.  The building was expanded and remodeled again in the 1950’s.  Funds for this were raised by selling a second property the company owned.  The Franklin B. Thomas Hall was constructed. Many Company functions and fund raisers were hosted in this section of the building. The entire outside of the structure was perma-stone coated at this time to hide the aging red brick of the original building and to give the appearance of a single structure.  During this remodeling the company planned to replace the concrete floor that had been installed in the 1930’s.  After the contractor broke several jack-hammer bits and burned up a Diamond cutting saw, the plan was abandoned and the quarry tile  was installed. 

     Engine bay doors were installed in the Thomas Hall in the 1970’s to accommodate the company’s apparatus fleet and the hall did double duty serving as a social area and an engine room until the company stopped renting the hall in the early 1980’s.  During the 1980’s the original part of the building was remodeled once more. New gear racks, lighting and a new ceiling were installed in the engine room. The meeting room got a complete makeover.  A conference room / office was built, new heating and lighting were installed and all new carpeting and furnishings were bought.  The construction was financed by securing a series of grants from the state through the offices of State Senator Dick Tilghman and State Representative Lita Cohen.  The membership contributed to a special “Chair Fund” to purchase the furniture. Members were asked to contribute the cost of one chair until enough money was collected.  The names of the contributors have been recorded on a plaque which now hangs in the meeting room. 

      The Pleasant Valley Ambulance negotiated a lease for part of the building in the early part of the 1990’s and the hall was divided in half to provide them with space to house their ambulance and provide quarters for the crew.  As we celebrated our 100th year, plans were completed for what is now our fifth meeting place, our fourth engine room and our second permanent home.  We are now housed at 819 Fayette Street. The facility is approximately 6700 sq. ft., having a 3800 sq. ft. engine room, a driveway entering from Harry street, and the main apron exits on to Fayette Street. 

     The membership of the company has grown and changed; keeping pace with the face of the community we protect.  The original membership was all male, a reflection of the society of the time.  During the early years of the fire company, the hose house was a source of community events.  Forms of entertainment were limited at that time and gathering at the fire house to play cards, pool or just exchange news was a common occurrence. The fire company organized events for the general public.  The Company’s minutes contain records of dinners, dances, concerts, carnivals and other forms of entertainment hosted by the Company’s members.  These events were for fund raising purposes but membership was easily recruited out of fire company affairs. 

     Marching competitions at parades were a major event during the 30’s and 40’s. The Conshohocken Fire Company No.2 Uniformed Marching Club raised funds to purchase 100 uniforms for the men in 1938.  A veteran of World War I, Frank Hiltner, was the team’s drill instructor and twice a week practices were organized.  Many cash awards and trophies were won by the club during its existence and they were state champions in 1946 winning first place at the state firemen’s convention in York.   

 

     For many years a Ladies’ Auxiliary was a major part of the organization.  These dedicated women held dinners and other fund-raisers to assist in the support of the fire company.  In the early years of the organization they held “tag days”.  This event was selling lapel pins, with the Company name on them, to people on street corners in the town’s business district.  Auxiliary members, Ada Sturges, Laura Wood, and Mrs. George Highley were responsible for most of the support of the ambulance.  They saw to it that the unit was properly equipped and operated as a free service to the residents of the community.  After the construction of the Franklin Thomas Hall, the Ladies’ equipped the kitchen and provided catering service to the company.  They cooked for company events, provided refreshments during and after fire calls, ran fund raiser dinners and catered weddings, funerals and other events when the hall was rented.  The Ladies’ Auxiliary had its own marching unit that would parade with the men.  One of their members even composed a song that they would sing while marching.  Since the early 1980’s, the ladies are no longer a separate organization.  They are now brought in as regular members of the fire company.

 

 

“The Ladies Marching Song”
(Notre Dame Fight Song)

 

Lets give a cheer for old No.2.
Faithful and steadfast honest and true.
When the siren it does blow.
All of our men are ready to go.
Cheer, Cheer for old No.2.
Whether they’re marching or handling the hose.
They will find us standing by.
To cheer them to Victory.

 

 

     A junior membership has existed within the company for a number of years.  This class of membership is open to young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.  It has proven to be an asset to our company to involve this young group.  They come to us with an interest in learning what it means and what it takes to be a firefighter.  They learn the tasks of firefighting with great enthusiasm no matter how difficult the lesson is.  The junior members get an insight in to what it takes to keep a fire company operational.  They hear the stories of the long time members and we watch their enthusiasm to be involved in something exciting, grow into an enthusiasm to support the company they have joined.  Many of the juniors have gone on to take positions of responsibility in the company as they reach eighteen and become regular members.

 

     Conshohocken No.2 has always had a strong group of contributing members.  Through the years they have supported the company by promoting and attending its events.  The company has always appreciated the moral and financial support of this group of members.  They have always been a reflection of the community’s support of the company.

 

      Like any organization of its type the fire company has been a reflection of those who have been part of it.  From the original group of men that met in that kitchen the company grew rapidly.  When the written charter arrived in April of 1903 the company showed a roster of sixty four members.  It appears to have been a diverse group of people including shopkeepers, businessmen and factory workers.  That diversity remains. We are bankers and policemen, students and retirees, housewives and construction workers, truck drivers, business executives, computer programmers and engineers.  Our current roster lists nearly three hundred members with approximately fifty active members and a staff of thirty three firefighters. 

 

      Even with its diversity we are a company of families.  The company records reveal family names appearing for several generations. The regular and active membership is full of husbands and wives, mothers and fathers with sons and daughters, brothers, cousins and in-laws.  The experience of the long time members continues to guide the enthusiasm of the young as parents, uncles, aunts, and older brothers passing on traditions and history to sons and daughters, nieces and nephews.  We are a diversity of families coming together, united in a common cause to grow an organization that is more than a building and pieces of equipment. It is made of parts of all those who have been here through the years and it is a part of them.

 

       The rich heritage of the Fire company, intertwined with the individuals who were the stewards of this great organization during their generation has spawned a lasting legacy. To this day, the present stewardship balances the Company’s heritage with the technology of the present, and an eye toward the future, ensuring that the Fire Company meets its obligation to protect the residents of Conshohocken. This is the combination; the equation of success that has enabled the Conshohocken Fire Company No. 2 to flourish and grow for 100 years and will continue growing for 100 more.

 

 


 

 

Two’s  Trivia

  • Frank Noble, Irving Nuss, Francis Myers, Benjemin Kay, George Jones, Dilwyn Fleck and William Speaker were the seven men responsible for organizing the first meeting of the Company.
  • The first paid driver was hired in January of 1919.  Joseph Riker agreed to do the job for $22 per week if the Company purchased a bed and let him live at the firehouse.
  • In 1926 Franklin B. “Fritz” Thomas was appointed driver and Chief Engineer.  He was the son of one of the original members.  The hall completed in 1960 was named the Franklin B. Thomas Hall in his memory.
  • Carl Schultz was the first borough Fire Marshal.  He was appointed in January of 1966. Carl passed away at the age of 70, and was still an active member and pump engineer.
  • John Kijak Sr. was the Company’s first 2nd Lieutenant. He was appointed by President Norman Reiff in August of 1967.
  • William McAvoy is the Company’s oldest active firefighter.
  • Loretta Blundin, Diane Carbonneau, Marie Gunning, Elizabeth Pearson, and Elizabeth Phipps were the Company’s first female regular members.
  • Lynn Costello was the Company’s first female firefighter. She was also one of the first members state certified in vehicle rescue.
  • Seventy four members were either drafted or enlisted during the Second World War.  All of them returned home.
  • The company has never lost a member in the line of duty.
  • The bells used on the early apparatus were old locomotive bells acquired from the railroad.
  • The top of the Gamewell alarm board in the engine room is an old headboard from a bed.
  • In December of 1917 an official letter was sent to Mr. Nickalos Talone instructing him to stop delivering intoxicating drink to the firehouse.
  • The company received its first appropriation from the borough in 1918, a sum of 500 dollars.
  • The company joined the Montgomery County Firemen’s Association on June 5, 1920.
  • The company hosted a carnival from April 30 to May 7, 1921.  The entertainment included eight attractions, two free shows and thirty concessions. The Company sponsored a popularity contest with the carnival with six local girls winning prizes.
  • In April of 1921 a motion was passed to forbid card games during company meetings.
  • The Hale Salvage truck and the Mort Ambulance were housed on 4th of July 1925.
  • The operation of the Ambulance purchased in 1925 was eventually turned over to the Conshohocken Moose Lodge.
  • A history written in 1929 reported the company had thirty six sets of rubber coats, boots and hats for the men and 3000 feet of first class fire hose.  The firehouse was free of debt and the building consisted of a spacious engine room, dance auditorium, large club room equipped with radio, pool table, card table, and a library, a five room apartment for the driver and a confectionery store equipped with a soda fountain.
  • A hose tower was built in 1937.
  • The housing of the 1941 Autocar was the largest event held by the company at that time.  Over forty fire companies attended the event.
  • Donkey Baseball games were played in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as a fund raiser.
  • The old siren was installed in 1973.
  • The company joined the Montgomery County dispatch network in 1973.
  • Ground was broken for construction of the old hall in 1958. By 1974 the mortgage was paid in full.
  • During the early 1970’s $1.00 movie matinees were run for children on Saturdays.
  • The first fire the company responded to was a train wreck at Cherry and Washington Sts.
  • On March 30, 1966 Firefighters William McAvoy and George Dougherty rescued two children from a burning house.
  • In 1969 the company spent thirty five hours and twenty six minutes in service at a warehouse fire that destroyed 10,000 tires.  The company was dispatched at 8:45a.m. on 1-26-69 and returned to station at 8:17 p.m. 1-27-69.
  • December 27, 1974 the Company responded to a fire at 3rd and Forrest. A building used by the Equipment and Furniture company was destroyed.  The building was considered a Conshohocken landmark because it had been the Headquarters of The Grand Old Army of The Republic, A veterans group for The Union Army of the Civil War.
  • During the Johnstown Flood No. 2 sent crews to assist.
  • In 1975 the company traveled to Trenton New Jersey to assist during the floods.
  • During the first 25 years of operation #2 responded to calls in the surrounding area on a regular basis.  The 7 Stars Hotel, the Kerper property in Cold Point, “The Jewish settlement” near Marble Hall, and the Erdenheim farm in Whitemarsh, all appear on the run books of the Company. 
  • Some of the places that appear several times were; Ruth Glass Works at 10th and Hallowell, Dr. Winter’s Sanitarium in West Conshohocken, John Wood Company, and Cooper’s Creek Chemical Company on River Road.
  • The farthest distance the Company traveled to a building fire call was to the Three Tuns Hotel in Ambler on June 16, 1923 at 7:05 P.M.

 

Some of the fires that have been considered among the worst that the company responded to are:

St. Mary’s Rectory in 1943

 C&D Batteries in 1944 and again in 1953

The gas explosion at Alan Wood Steel Company in 1955

Conshohocken Refractories in 1964 and 1970 

The Reading Railroad Station in 1967

Tornetta Freight in 1970

The West Conshohocken Gas Explosion in 1971

The Downtown Tavern in 1974

Plymouth Garden Apartments in 1978

Tose Warehouse in Bridgeport in 1980
Thru-Way Equipment on Brooks Road 1980

Plymouth Country Club 1981

Elm Automotive 

St. Mary’s School

Conshohocken Construction company on Elm street

September 11, 2001

First Baptist Church Fire

Washington Street Fire 2008

 


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