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August 21, 2017
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History: Fire Department History on Display

A hand-painted fire hat
A hand-painted fire hat
A model hand pumper
A model hand pumper
A real hand pumper is stored at the fire house
A real hand pumper is stored at the fire house
Antique fire buckets used by SKFE
Antique fire buckets used by SKFE
Gosda describes a devastating 1949 fire
Gosda describes a devastating 1949 fire
Honorary member Dan Little lived to be 106
Honorary member Dan Little lived to be 106
Many documents need to be restored
Many documents need to be restored
Mike Fanning played the bones
Mike Fanning played the bones
Rows of old Storm King helmets
Rows of old Storm King helmets
Scores of medals are on display
Scores of medals are on display
The lanterns adorned the first fire truck
The lanterns adorned the first fire truck
The voting box
The voting box
May 02, 2007

Click on any photo for a larger view.

The history of Storm King Fire Engine Company No. 2 will be on display during a ceremony to unveil plaques detailing the early days of the company, which was founded in 1868.

Bob Gosda has been a member of the fire company for 48 years and he has taken a special interest in preserving the company’s historical records, awards, and memorabilia. He recently gave a private tour of the second floor museum that he plans to open to the public on Saturday after the ceremony. Gosda’s dream would be to raise enough money to restore all the handwritten documents and rare prints in storage there.

The museum features many items in display cases spread over three rooms that are also filled with the scores of trophies won by the fire company during its years of service to the community.

Upon entering, one of the more fascinating items is a wooden voting box that was used until 1997 to decide if an applicant could join the fire company or not. Each member could cast either a white ball or a black square into the box – three black balls and the applicant was denied. Gosda notes that the voting box has been replaced by a more fair and balanced process to determine membership in the company.

In a larger room, dominated by a carved wooden pool table that is still in use today, a display case holds a working model of a horse-drawn pump that the manufacturer used to sell the actual pump. A real life-size antique pumper is stored in the garage behind the firehouse.

When the Storm King Fire Engine Company #2 moved into its new headquarters on Hudson Street in 1903, E.A. Matthiessen, a local builder, donated an ornate wooden mantle that today holds memorabilia from the past, including two rose-colored lanterns from the company’s original fire trucks.

Dr. Ernest Stillman, a local philanthropist best known for creating the Black Rock Forest Preserve, also collected firefighter’s helmets, uniforms, and fire buckets from the U.S. and Europe. Stillman donated many of these to the company, which has them on display in locked cabinets. The hand-painted leather hats and fire buckets show classic American images and leaders from the past.

The pride of company members is apparent throughout the museum. Photos of past leaders include those whose descendants are members of the company today. Current company president Charles (Butch) Cocks’ grandfather, Isaac Cocks, was an early member who served with Henry Hahn and Charles A. Hahn, the great uncle and great grandfather of current assistant fire chief Kurt Hahn. Kurt's grandfather, Charles E. and his father, Charles R., both served with the company as well.

Mike Fanning was a colorful member of the company. A large oil portrait of Fanning that shows him playing the bones hangs next to a wall of trophies won by the company over the decades. Another highlight is a photo of Dan Little, a member of the company for 77 years, who posed for this photo at age 105.

As the tour continued, Bob Gosda held a framed series of photos of a devastating fire that occurred in Cornwall in 1949, killing six children. Gosda’s father, Ed Place, a member of the Storm King fire company, tried to save them. “It ate my father up that he couldn’t save those kids,” Gosda says, describing how the children’s parents were not at the Willow Avenue house at the time. “It broke my father’s heart.”

Gosda also showed some of the handwritten meeting notes that have been carefully preserved to protect them from the light. One of those documents describes how the fire company was first created. This is what it says:

“2nd day of December 1868

While sitting in the shoe shop of Paul Jager the following conversation took place which founded the Storm King Fire Engine Company #2 of Cornwall on Hudson. Mr. Jager asked if there was any way we could get a fire station in this place. I told him there was by going to work in the right way and that was by calling a meeting and organizing the company first there to tax each member five dollars towards purchasing funds so that when the subscription lists were sent around the people could see the company was formed and the list was headed by the company’s subscription. Mr. Jager then suggested that we call a meeting for the 10th and see what we could do. Chatfield Hall was secured and a call made for the above purchase of Storm King Fire Engine Company #2 in Cornwall on Hudson. (Signed) John McClean Jr.


Contributions are welcomed to assist in preserving the historic documents in the museum of the Storm King Fire Engine Company #2.
Donations can be sent to Bob Gosda, SKFE Co. #2, 201 Hudson St., Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York 12520.


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