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Pa. fire company to celebrate 50th year of first station

October 07, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - It is generally believed that Waynesboro's first fire department, known as the Washington Engine Co., was organized in 1840 and ran alarms out of the old town hall building on the borough's center square.

In 1879, the company was reorganized into the Mechanics Steam Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1, its name today.

Borough Fire Chief Ronald Flegel said the department had several homes until 1954, when it moved into a new building on Virginia Avenue. It was built for the company through the generosity of Howard M. Weaver, a wealthy local resident who wanted the building named in honor of his wife, Sudie Clayton Weaver.

A large sign over the double bays on the front of the building facing Virginia Avenue reads, "Sudie Clayton Memorial Fire Hall."

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At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16, department members will rededicate their fire station on its 50th anniversary, Borough Fire Chief Ronald Flegel told the Waynesboro Borough Council Wednesday night.

The cornerstone of the building hides a time capsule that was buried 50 years ago when the building was dedicated. It will be opened during the ceremony. "We'll fill it up again and bury it for the next 50 years," Flegel said.

Wayne Powell, from the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., will be the guest speaker. An open house and refreshments will follow.

The Mechanics Steam Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1 was organized in 1879 as an offshoot of the Washington Engine Co., Flegel said. It occupied the same quarters as its forerunner in the old Borough Hall building on the Center Square, he said.

It 1882, it moved to the then-Academy of Music building on East Main Street, today home of the current Borough Hall, he said.

In 1899, some members of the Mechanics fire department left to form the Always There Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 and both departments shared space in a new fire hall at 29 S. Potomac St., Flegel said.

The Mechanics remained a hose company and the Always There Hook and Ladder Co. became a ladder truck outfit.

Both departments still serve in their original capacities today, but have since been joined as the Waynesboro Fire Department.

Weaver owned the land under the Virginia Avenue fire house and property all around it, Flegel said. He sold land south along Virginia Avenue for houses, mostly smaller, brick Cape Cod and ranch houses.

A close look at the front of the fire hall shows it, too, resembles Cape Cod architecture, despite its stone construction.

"It looks like a house with huge garage doors," Flegel said.

The building committee consisted of Fred Newcomer, C.O. Robinson, R.C. Hartman and O.E. Helm Jr.

Hartman and Helm have died.

Robinson and Helm are former chiefs of the department. Robinson lived next door to the fire house and Helm less than a block away on Myrtle Avenue, Flegel said.

Flegel, 63, was hired as a paid driver for the department in 1967.

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