Friday, June 11, 2010


Museum looks at firefighting’s past
Grand opening slated Sunday


By Bill Fortier TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
wfortier@telegram.com




UXBRIDGE — Retired Firefighter Roy L. Henry knew he had to do something to save a big part of the town’s history, and the result of his work and that of many others will be there for everybody to see at Sunday’s grand opening of the Uxbridge Antique Fire Museum at 18 Depot St.

The museum opening is part of the annual Firefighter Memorial Sunday Observance. The events will start at noon with a memorial ceremony at the nearby Millville fire station. Uxbridge, Millville and Blackstone are part of a mutual aid pact with several communities in northern Rhode Island, and fire engines from those communities will be displayed there and at the new museum’s open house, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Among the equipment permanently on display at the museum are two more-than-100-year-old hose reels that could be pulled either by people or horses, an approximately 6-foot tall rolling fire extinguisher that contained soda acid and water when it was used in the mill, and a water-shooting deck gun that could be attached to a fire engine or removed and anchored to the ground as needed.

A small room in one of the bays has a ticker tape alarm system used years ago by the Fire Department. Also on display Sunday will be a 1940 Seagrave firetruck, a 1975 Maxim firetruck and a 2009 Pierce firetruck.

The museum is in two bays of a seven-bay garage owned by the Capron Corp. It is across the street from the Bernat Mill, which was destroyed by a fire in July 2007. The museum, in fact, originated in 2006 in the boiler room of the mill, where Mr. Henry and the late Police Lt. Benjamin Emerick worked on some of the antique equipment that is now in the museum. A fire bell at the museum has been dedicated to Lt. Emerick.

The charred remains of the mill are easily visible from the museum.

The building was built between 1915 and 1918 and originally used by executives of the Uxbridge Worstead Co. to house their vehicles during working hours, Mr. Henry said.

The museum was used as the mill’s fire station, and the town’s first motorized fire engine, a 1921 Maxim pumper, was housed there. Mr. Henry’s father, Roy Henry Sr., and retired Fire Chief William B. “Junie” Albin’s father were among seven firefighters who fought blazes in the vehicle.

Mr. Albin, who was fire chief for almost 20 years before retiring in 1992, said he’s impressed by the museum.

“They guys did a great job, “ he said. “There’s a lot of history here.”

Melanie Blodgett, Police and Fire Department public information officer, said several family members have been on the department through the years. They include her stepfather, Harley Keeler, who was fire chief from 1993 until 2004, and her sister, Melissa Blodgett, who is currently with the department.

“It’s a whole family affair,” she said.

About seven years ago, Mr. Henry heard that the garage was going to demolished.

“I had to do something. I just couldn’t see this piece of history go,” he said yesterday. “There’s a lot of good history here.”

Mr. Henry and Lt. Emerick found two willing allies in Leonard “Cappy” Fournier and Jack Tweed, principals of Capron Corp., which bought the garage and the mill in 2004.

Mr. Fournier said that at one point a demolition permit had been issued for the garage. Mr. Fournier said he and Mr. Tweed did some research on the building and discovered its rich history.

“It was really in pretty good condition so we decided to restore it,” Mr. Fournier said. Eventually, the decision was made to put the museum there.

“It’s a nice fit,” Mr. Fournier said.

“Jack and I supported the museum idea and Roy and the other guys did a lot of work.”

The other five bays contain the maintenance department of the burned-out mill, and Mr. Henry said the hope is that once that facility becomes occupied, the maintenance department will relocate across the street, freeing up more space for an expanded antique museum.

“That’s a long way down the road,” Mr. Henry said.

Mr. Fournier said an expansion of the museum could happen.

“We’d take a look at it, sure, of course,” he said.

The plan is for the museum to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Appointments can be made to see the museum on Sundays, retired Firefighter William A. Martin said.

http://telegram.com/article/20100611...537/1101/local

Retired Milford Firefighter Jim Ahearn visits the new Uxbridge Antique Fire Museum yesterday. (T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON)