Ti firefighters to open museum
By Fred Herbst
Editor, Times of Ti
Mary Cunningham, president of the Ticonderoga Fire Department, and Jeff Burns, fire chief, stand with a 1923 American LaFrance fire truck in the department’s new museum. The museum will open May 29.
May 26, 2011
Ticonderoga — The Ticonderoga Fire Department will mark its 20th anniversary with the formal opening of its new museum.
The opening and dedication of the facility, constructed on the west side of the fire station, will be Sunday, May 29, at 2 p.m.
"We're really proud of it," Fire Chief Jeff Burns said of the museum. "We're not historians, we're firemen. But I think it came out really well."
The Ticonderoga Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 formally started in 1991, but has a long history dating back more than a century. The community was served by three departments — the Defiance Hook & Ladder, the Defiance Hose and the W.W. Jeffers Hose — until a Ticonderoga fire district consolidated them into a single department in 1991.
When the unified Ti fire company was formed, Newt Brown was named historian. He collected artifacts through the years, storing them in a small room at the fire house. In 2005 then-Chief Carl Perry decided the department needed a museum to display Brown's collection. Both men are now deceased.
"It all really started with Newt," Mary Cunningham, department president, said. "Some people thought he was crazy to save this stuff, but now we have this beautiful museum."
The museum features old firefighting equipment, antique furniture, photos, newspaper clippings from major fires and events, ribbons, medals and more.
It has displays on Ticonderoga's earliest departments, the Defiance Hook & Ladder, the Defiance Hose and the W.W. Jeffers Hose, along with the ladies auxiliary and the town's junior firefighters, who were originally Boy Scouts.
Featured are a hose cart from the 1800s, a 1923 American LaFrance fire truck and a 1950s juke box that was in one of the town's fire stations.
There's a story behind every exhibit. The 1923 fire truck, for example, was believed to be a 1921 model. It turns out the truck was ordered in 1921, but the village's payment check bounced and the company refused to deliver the truck, Burns explained. Two years later, when the village had cash to make the purchase, a new truck was delivered.
"The fire department has a rich history," Burns said. "It goes back to 1873 when the (Defiance) hose company formed. We tried to start (exhibits) at the beginning and work our way through the years. I think it came out great.
"It's still a work in progress — and will be for a long time," he added. "We still have some photos and things we're having trouble dating and getting information on."
Ticonderoga had three fire companies in three different stations until the 1970s. At that time the present fire house was constructed and all three companies moved in, sharing space but remaining separate departments.
"There was actually quite a rivalry between departments," Burns said. "They all responded to fires, but they all had their own leadership. They had three separate meeting rooms in the fire house. They were definitely separate departments. In 1990 the village decided to form a fire district and created Ticonderoga Volunteer Fire Company No. 1. We merged in 1991."
Cunningham said the museum is a window to the past and inspiration for the future.
"We want to look to the past and the future," she said. "We don't want to forget where we came from as we plan for the future."
The museum project cost $80,000. Nearly half that money, $37,000, came from the sale of the "Fireman's Field." The rest came from bingo proceeds, donations from the ladies auxiliary and local businesses, and the fire commission. Fort Ticonderoga donated cabinets and display shelves.
"It would have cost a lot more if not for the labor of our members and the donations of local businesses and the auxiliary," Burns said.
The 20 x 60 foot structure was built by the company's 52 firefighters.
"I think every member had a hand in this at one point or another," Burns said.
He noted the department's two longest-servicing members, Larry Crammond and Dick Clark, were instrumental in the museum project. Both have been Ti firefighters more than 50 years.
The museum will be open on Tuesday nights during the department's drills and Thursday nights during bingo. People can also make arrangements to see the museum by calling the fire station at 585-7771 or Burns at 586-1674.
The objective of the Ticonderoga Volunteer Fire Company #1, Inc. shall be the preservation and protection of life and property from and during such fires and emergencies as may occur in the Ticonderoga Fire District and other Districts wherein the company is called for assistance under mutual aid.