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How a Pa. fire station evolved from 1857 through now

For the Washington Fire Company location, the future is undetermined

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By Joseph Cress
The Sentinel, Carlisle

MECHANICSBURG BOROUGH, Pa. — In form and function, the firehouse at 53 E. Main St. has evolved with the fire service in Mechanicsburg Borough.

Known historically as the headquarters of the “Washies,” the building has operated since the 2019 merger as one of two stations for the Mechanicsburg Volunteer Fire Department. The other station is at the corner of York and Simpson streets.

While the construction of an $8 million building will require the demolition of the old Citizens Fire Company station, no decision has been made on the fate of the old Washington Fire Company station, which sits on land owned by the caretakers of the Union Church, Borough Fire Chief Gary Neff said in January.

Recently, John Klinger, webmaster for the Mechanicsburg Museum Association, provided The Sentinel with vintage photographs and a brief history of the Washington station.

The organization that became the Washington Fire Company was formed after a hand pump fire engine arrived in Mechanicsburg on Dec. 29, 1857, Klinger said. “It was kept in a building on South Market Street which longer exists.”

In 1860, a building was completed at the East Main Street location, which included the fire company on the first floor, a borough council meeting room on the second floor and a hall on the third floor for such events as the annual town Christmas dance hosted by the women of Irving College, Klinger said.

Decades later, in 1907, the original fire company building was demolished to make way for the current firehouse, which still housed relatively small, hand-drawn apparatus, Klinger said. “As fire equipment became motorized and larger, changes were made and, in 1957, the front of the building was substantially revised to its current configuration.

“As fire equipment continued to become larger and more advanced, changes have continued to be made to accommodate,” he said. “Over the years, the company has participated in many community events.”

With a new station planned, department volunteers have started moving artifacts and historical documents from the Citizens station to safekeeping in the upper room of the Washington station.

“That’s where we’re going to have our central collection,” Neff said in January. “The historical committee will go through and identify what we will carry on to the new site.”

Plans for the new station include a room that will be open to the public and will display the artifacts of the old fire companies.


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