Capen Hose Co. 4 Fire Museum a hidden treasure welcoming the public

By on August 13, 2018
Seen with Don Ennis in the background and Toby Unger, this machine was pulled to the scene by men and pumped by them, with about 15 people on each side. This pumper could either self feed or pump water from a bucket brigade. It could pump water up to 200 gallons per minute. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Seen with Don Ennis in the background and Toby Unger, this machine was pulled to the scene by men and pumped by them, with about 15 people on each side. This pumper could either self feed or pump water from a bucket brigade. It could pump water up to 200 gallons per minute. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Driving by the Capen Hose Co. 4 Fire Museum some weeks ago, there was a hand-made sign on the lawn announcing, “OPEN HOUSE, Sunday, 1 – 4 pm.”  Located at Brockport’s busiest intersection at Main and Fair Streets and Park Avenue, the stately white 1905 firehouse stands behind the “September 11, 2001” memorial.  Until three years ago, when the last active fire engine was removed, it was one of the oldest active firehouses in Monroe County and Western New York.

I recalled the museum had been open on many occasions with its founder, “Scottie” Warthman, proudly guiding tours and I was fascinated then. Scottie died tragically in an auto accident in 2003. In recent years, it has appeared closed up and inaccessible, until the inviting sign appeared. Dianne and I wanted to see this hidden treasure and contacted Norm Knapp for a tour.  We found the collection throughout many rooms to be in immaculate condition, seemingly just dusted, polished and proud.

We met with Norm, Don Ennis, and Toby Unger who are among the most active of the museum’s custodians.  The Capen Hose Co. 4 is no longer an active firefighting company since the fire district was established in 2006. The firehouse and its contents now serve as a museum with about 14 people who are supporting members.  About eight years ago, the Capen Hose Co. 4 reorganized when Lloyd Hugelmaier was elected president and Don Ennis became vice president.

Don, Toby, and Norm have deep roots in firefighting in Brockport.

Don worked for Kodak 29 years and was a firefighter with Capen Hose from the 70s until early 90s, when he moved to fire police for many years, then retired.

Toby owned several businesses in the Brockport area. He joined Capen Hose at 19 years old in 1971 and was a firefighter until the late 80s.

Norm has been retired from Kodak for 15 years; he spent 32 years as career lieutenant in the Kodak fire department.  His father and uncles were members of Capen Hose, so, at 18 years old, it seemed “natural” to join, he said.

The three keepers of the museum said, “We would like the public to come and enjoy what we have in the museum.” Those interested in scheduling a tour can call Don at 637-5086.

Or, come by on August 19 or September 16, two remaining Sundays when the sign will appear again on the lawn announcing, “Open House Sunday, 1 – 4 pm.”

(On September 11, a morning and evening service are planned with traditional day-long vigil as in past years at the “September 11, 2001” memorial park in front of Capen Hose Co. 4.  More information will be provided as the event approaches.)

Photos by Dianne Hickerson

Norm Knapp explains the workings of a replica dispatch desk from early fire warning systems. The red call box (adjacent photo) is part of the intricate system to alert firefighters of a fire. The call box is #232, and was located nearby at the corner of Main Street and Park Avenue. When opened and the switch pulled, the “ticker tape” punched holes that triggered the gong and blasts on a horn in a sequence, 2 - 3 - 2, announcing the general area of the fire. Several call boxes were placed around the village with their own numbers to bring firefighters to that area. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Norm Knapp explains the workings of a replica dispatch desk from early fire warning systems. The red call box (adjacent photo) is part of the intricate system to alert firefighters of a fire. The call box is #232, and was located nearby at the corner of Main Street and Park Avenue. When opened and the switch pulled, the “ticker tape” punched holes that triggered the gong and blasts on a horn in a sequence, 2 – 3 – 2, announcing the general area of the fire. Several call boxes were placed around the village with their own numbers to bring firefighters to that area.

The older helmet (right) reads “T.C. Corn, Engine #3, foreman.” It goes back to the Thomas Corn Engine and Hose Co. that operated the hand pumper. Thomas Corn was a prominent citizen and one of the early presidents of the village. “Foreman” was another word for “Captain.” The newer helmet (left) was worn by the assistant fire chief called an “Assistant Engineer” (word at top) in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Photos by Dianne Hickerson

The older helmet (right) reads “T.C. Corn, Engine #3, foreman.” It goes back to the Thomas Corn Engine and Hose Co. that operated the hand pumper. Thomas Corn was a prominent citizen and one of the early presidents of the village. “Foreman” was another word for “Captain.” The newer helmet (left) was worn by the assistant fire chief called an “Assistant Engineer” (word at top) in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

This steam pumper was purchased after a major fire in 1877 destroyed much of the business district on Market Street. There had been little or no fire protection for the growing village. Purchased from Silsby Mfg Co. in Seneca Falls, NY, it was in service until the early 1900s. Improved over the Hand Pumper, it was steam-powered and horse-drawn. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

This steam pumper was purchased after a major fire in 1877 destroyed much of the business district on Market Street. There had been little or no fire protection for the growing village. Purchased from Silsby Mfg Co. in Seneca Falls, NY, it was in service until the early 1900s. Improved over the Hand Pumper, it was steam-powered and horse-drawn.

The headlights of this 1930 Seagrave “Suburbanite Pumper” can be seen peering out at Main Street through the windows of the firehouse garage doors. Called “The Grey Ghost” because of its unique color scheme, the Grey Ghost Exempt Association formed in 1967 and restored it to its present condition. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

The headlights of this 1930 Seagrave “Suburbanite Pumper” can be seen peering out at Main Street through the windows of the firehouse garage doors. Called “The Grey Ghost” because of its unique color scheme, the Grey Ghost Exempt Association formed in 1967 and restored it to its present condition.

The upstairs room of Capen Hose was used for dances, minstrel shows, chili dinners, breakfasts, community Bingo nights, meetings and other functions. Today it holds display cases with equipment and memorabilia from department and firefighting history. The hose carriage featured here was purchased by Capen Hose in 1898. With up to 600 feet of hose on the reel, it was hand-drawn to a fire and hooked up to a pumper. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

The upstairs room of Capen Hose was used for dances, minstrel shows, chili dinners, breakfasts, community Bingo nights, meetings and other functions. Today it holds display cases with equipment and memorabilia from department and firefighting history. The hose carriage featured here was purchased by Capen Hose in 1898. With up to 600 feet of hose on the reel, it was hand-drawn to a fire and hooked up to a pumper.

The leather bucket, cc. 1840, has “#4 W.H. Seymour” imprinted. The Village required a fire bucket at each residence to help when the fire alarm sounded. This is the bucket from William Seymour’s own residence. Each family had their own name printed on the bucket.

The leather bucket, cc. 1840, has “#4 W.H. Seymour” imprinted. The Village required a fire bucket at each residence to help when the fire alarm sounded. This is the bucket from William Seymour’s own residence. Each family had their own name printed on the bucket.

Wooden water mains ran underground to fire hydrants in Brockport. This one was found in Rochester. It is a log hollowed out to about three inches in diameter and wrapped with metal strap reinforcement. Photos by Dianne Hickerson

Wooden water mains ran underground to fire hydrants in Brockport. This one was found in Rochester. It is a log hollowed out to about three inches in diameter and wrapped with metal strap reinforcement.

Some early designs in firefighter breathing apparatus included this “elephant trunk” style. It was based on the theory that the cleanest air is near the floor, which is behind the prevailing rule to drop to the floor in case of a fire. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Some early designs in firefighter breathing apparatus included this “elephant trunk” style. It was based on the theory that the cleanest air is near the floor, which is behind the prevailing rule to drop to the floor in case of a fire.

 

 

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