Fighting Fire and Preserving History at Relief Hose No. 3

Organized in 1895, Relief Hose No. 3 was intended to provide additional fire protection to the ever-growing Village downtown. In the days of horse-drawn water pumps and low-pressure hand pumps, additional firehouses were needed to cover new neighborhoods that sprung up in the North West corner of Haverstraw. The newly formed fire department was housed in a barn and carriage house, which still stands at the corner of Westside Avenue and Gurnee Avenue. Today, the structure is a dwelling; originally, the house contained barn doors on the ground floor where the original fire wagon and then a motor car (pictured at left) rigged with a pump were stored.

In 1911, the Village government held a referendum to provide funds to purchase property and materials to build a more modern fire house. Relief 3 shuttled hundreds of its supporters to the polls to vote in favor of the appropriated funds. In the end, $400 was spent on acquiring land at the corner of Conklin Avenue and George Street and $3,593 was set aside for construction materials. 97,000 bricks were donated by various local brickyards. A list of brick donations per brickyard is pictured in the slideshow below. The building itself is mainly brick with a pond stone façade. Charles D. Baisley was awarded the contract to construct the firehouse, and C. I. Springsteen, an architect from the Nyack area designed the building. Interestingly, the firehouse that stands on Railroad Avenue in West Haverstraw was built of the same design and plans drawn by Springsteen. The West Haverstraw firehouse lacks the stone façade that Relief 3 boasts.

The main apparatus floor, where today’s modern fire truck is parked, is comprised of original hardwood. It is rare to find original hardwood floors intact on the main floor of any firehouse; it is an odd sight at that. The walls and ceiling are adorned with ornate pressed tin – highly decorative tin ceilings and walls were common in Haverstraw at the time (see the slideshow). The entire firehouse is polished clean and the hardwood floors shine.

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Scottish masons that immigrated to the United States just after the turn of the century could not find work in New York City. Relatives mentioned that there was work to be had in Haverstraw, just up the North River (Hudson River) from the City. The masons arrived and went to work on the firehouse, laying brick and the intricately mortared stone façade. Each day the masons led a horse-drawn wagon into the area surrounding Letchworth Village in Thiells, several miles from Haverstraw. They pulled pond stones, or rounded river rock from the Minisceongo Creek and from other bodies of water before hauling the rock back down to the Village.

By Saint Patrick’s Day of 1912, the cornerstone was laid and a time capsule was placed beneath it before construction of the main structure. The firehouse finally opened for service by late 1912. The firehouse is preparing to celebrate its 100th birthday over the next few months.

Fire Department culture is still very strong in the Village of Haverstraw. Each year, the various Village departments attend regional parades and conferences. For over 100 years, Relief 3 has been attending these events in locations as far as Coney Island. The regalia and trophy case in the main meeting room above the apparatus floor is filled with silver cups, ornately engraved trophy bugles, and other mementos from the house’s rich history. When the firehouse is manned, the front barn doors are wide open. If you have a chance, stop by and chat with one of the firefighters about the department’s rich traditions and the house’s great history.

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