Saying farewell to Lonsdale Fire station

Saying farewell to Lonsdale Fire station

Michael Babbitt of the fire board takes a look at part of the collection of thousands of fire, police and rescue department badges, representing various states and cities, that line the walls of the Lonsdale Fire station. It’s tradition, he says, for firefighters to trade badges with other departments. (Breeze photos by Brittany Ballantyne)
Open house planned before building is taken over by town

LINCOLN – Walking through the Lonsdale Fire station at 224 Front St., the atmosphere is that of a ghost town.

Lincoln Rescue crew members, the only group that facilitates the station now, are out on a call. Firefighters haven’t worked out of this building in more than two years now, since the Lonsdale Fire District was determined financially insolvent.

But throughout the station are memorabilia, knickknacks, muster trophies, medals, plaques displaying previous fire association presidents’ names, “thank you” cards from residents and historic documents, photos and old newspaper clippings.

Soon, the station will be taken over by the town, and Lincoln Rescue will continue to operate out of the building. Before that happens, Michael Babbitt of the fire board said, an open house of the former firefighter’s stomping grounds is being planned.

Babbitt explained that the event would allow residents and former fire station employees to visit the place one last time before it sees any changes.

They can reminisce about when the second floor of the station was used as an American Legion hall, where locals could rent out the space for parties and events through the 1990s and had a liquor license, or take a look at old badges from fire, rescue and police departments throughout the country.

It’s a tradition, Babbitt explained, to trade these badges, many times at musters. There are thousands that line bulletin boards throughout the station and sleeping quarters area.

Old photos show historic apparatus, including equipment that was pulled by horses, and more recent pictures show fires the Lonsdale fire crews responded to. Newspaper clippings give a rundown on the town’s first paid fire chief, Earl Andrews, a fire set intentionally at Saint Jude Church in April 1968 and fire district officials discussing budget changes and needs decades ago.

A glass trophy case inside the fire station barracks displays awards, tickets from fire officials’ retirement parties, photos, artifacts, signed helmets and various knickknacks, like a menu from the former Giselle’s Kitchen, located where Gateway Park stands today that has been closed for more than 20 years, Babbitt explained.

Firefighters had used the barracks space to sleep, shower and cook in the kitchen, dubbed “The Firehouse,” when working shifts. Upstairs, the seven rooms that make up the sleeping quarters will now be used by Lincoln Rescue employees.

Walking through each of the rooms, Babbitt points to where uniforms and fire district T-shirts still hang, and miscellaneous materials like sewing kits that former firefighters used. Clothing that reads “Lonsdale Fire” will need to be claimed by former employees or destroyed, Babbitt said, to ensure uncertified people do not falsely represent the district.

Over at the Saylesville Fire station about a mile away, Babbitt explained, three displays will be created: One to pay homage to the Lonsdale station with memorabilia, another to remember the former Fairlawn district and a third that will represent Saylesville’s history.

“This was a fun place to be for a long, long time,” Babbitt said, looking around the Lonsdale station.

He said former firefighters and fire district employees are encouraged to contact him to claim any items that belong to them, or sift through the trinkets by emailing him at mbabbitt2@cox.net or calling the Saylesville Fire Department at 401-728-2960 to set up a time to meet.

In the meantime, he said, Lonsdale Fire board members would continue to sift through filing cabinets, bins and folders to make sure nothing valuable or of historical significance is thrown away.

Lonsdale’s charter, first enacted June 1, 1882, will be surrendered to Saylesville, pending voter approval in both the Lonsdale and Saylesville fire districts, Babbitt said.

Babbitt scans newspaper clippings saved at the Lonsdale station dating back to the early 1900s.