New Fire Station To Be Ready in 1969
By Martha Ball
From the Hooter, a Block Island newspapers, August 1968, (with thanks to Vin McAloon)
“This is the architect's preliminary plan for the Island's new fire station to be sited at Beach Avenue and Ocean Drive. It will actually be more than just a fire station. It will also house rescue squad quarters, police and detention facilities and a general purpose meeting room. The Town of New Shoreham is authorized to issue bonds up to $125,000 for the project, which was approved, after ten years of spirited discussion, in the Financial Town Meeting of last May. Architect is Charles James Koulbanis of New York.”
It had been a very long fight, the final facility was scaled down from a “grander” one including an auditorium. Battles were waged. Even at that meeting in May one citizen protested the cost and said the Town could easily get a building “from U.S. Steel” for a fraction of the cost proposed.
The Hooter was a printed four page newspaper, but photographs and sketches reproduced have faded more than the text and are sadly dimmed today. To further confuse matters, the orientation of the building on the “preliminary plan” was toward Ocean Avenue, the siting of it down the hill in the park, below the present complex. Behind it, in the back part of the Negus Park, is an area for “future outdoor community activities.”
Scaled down, in 1969 it would still be a step up from the rented quarters in the old Firemen's Hall off Chapel Street (the core of the Aldo's building). It would have hot and cold running water the year round, the area in front of it would not flood and fill with water in the winter, imprisoning the fire apparatus behind ice on the coldest winter days. It would be on a main road, not the junkyard that predated Weldon's Way, and it would not be rented space, subject to the uncertainty of changing owners.
There were memories attached to those upper floors of seemingly endless rooms, each the width of the narrow structure. It was where on St. Patrick's Day we all attended St Andrew's bingo, it was where we got our first polio shots, and where, of course Santa came at Christmas.
Today, at the “new” barn, bingo is in the summer, for the Auxiliary, shots are for rabies, and the big red elf still arrives come December..