Former Fire Station No. 1.
In 1868, nine years after the formation of the Provincetown Fire Department — nine years that included the Civil War — the town acquired this property from Phebe H. Atkins and Isaiah Atkins III, for $350, to build one of several fire houses. It’s quite similar in design to the buildings at 189 Commercial Street and 514 Commercial Street. The cupola, its most distinctive feature after the truck bay itself, marks the location of the loft in which lengths of hose were dried out after use, so they would not rot or mildew.
Fire Station 1 was built in the era of the “hand tub.” Within a large cast-iron tub, set on a carriage, was a reciprocating-action pump. Firemen stood on opposite sides of the tub and, using broad cross-bars, pumped water in a seesaw manner; up and down, up and down. The water came from one of 41 underground reservoirs, or cisterns, throughout town, like the one at 89 Commercial Street. The pumper sent the water streaming out — up to 175 feet — through rubber-lined cotton hoses tipped by copper nozzles.
“Up to 20 men would line up on either side of the hand tub and work like a double pair of pistons gone berserk,” one history of the Fire Department said.¹
The men of Hose Company No. 2 posed on the Franklin hand tub. The fellow in the dark jacket at the center holds a fire chief’s bugle. The photograph is from Britton W. Crosby’s Provincetown Fire Department history on CapeCodFD.com.
With the wooden bars on either side of the Franklin hand tub, fire fighters manually pumped water from the cast-iron tank. The photograph is from Britton W. Crosby’s Provincetown Fire Department history on CapeCodFD.com.
Cover of the company’s log book. Provincetown History Preservation Project, Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum Collection, Page 5814.
By the time this house was constructed, the town owned a couple of hand tubs, including an apparatus named the Franklin, in honor of Benjamin Franklin, manufactured in Roxbury by Hunneman & Company of Boston. The Franklin hand tub was designated No. 2. It was replaced in 1871 by a newer hand tub, also called the Franklin.
Fire companies in those early years were largely autonomous, although all of them operated under the auspices of the Board of Engineers. In 1871, the Franklin company had 50 paid members and 30 volunteers. It competed for prizes with other companies, based on how fair it could “play” water. With a 161-foot-3⅞-inch shot during an 1882 town muster, Franklin company came in second, after Mazeppa, Company No. 3.
A fairly typical entry from the company log concerned the night of 22 December 1891.
“An alarm given by the night-watch at about eleven o’clock P.M. called us to a fire in the barn of John M. Carnes. Our company assembled quickly and our engine was soon placed at the reservoir near the fire and a good stream was played on the fire for more than three hours through three hundred feet of hose. The men worked well and the engine was in excellent condition. The roof of the barn was burned off, one end badly damaged and several tons of hay nearly spoiled.
“The engine was returned to the house shortly after two o’clock when the roll was called and the company dismissed, after which a lunch of crackers, cheese, coffee and cigars was served. 35 members were present.”
The report was filed by Artemus Paine Hannum (1847-1921), the clerk of the company, a leading Mason who was closely involved with the construction of the Pilgrim Monument.
With the completion of the Provincetown Water Works — including a pumping station, a standpipe, and 62 hydrants set throughout the town — the old hand tubs were deemed unnecessary. The Franklin, Ulysses, and Tiger companies were disbanded by order of the chief of engineers, John D. Hilliard (1836-1906). The order was read to the men at their regular meeting on 7 November 1893. Hannum said they took the news hard:
“The meeting adjourned and the members left the hall expressing many regrets that a body of men who had served the town faithfully, some of them for 30 years, should be so unceremoniously dismissed without a word of commendation for past service.
“Thus ends the record of a company which for more than 30 years has been conspicuous for its interest and enthusiasm, for its good attendance and ready response to alarms; a company that has never been reprimanded or censured and whose influence has always been for the good of the department.”
Two days later, Franklin Company was reconstituted as Hose Company 2, and assigned a hose carriage to carry long, spooled lengths of hose up to the hydrant nearest the fire, to which the hose could then be connected. With the arrival in quarters of a pumper apparatus that could greatly increase the pressure of water taken from hydrants — and therefore the effective “play” of the hose — the unit was restyled Pumper Company 2.
At some point in the early 20th century, Pumper 2 was redesignated Pumper 1. Perhaps it was because this was the westernmost fire station, and its volunteers were summoned by a single blast of the alarm on Town Hall, meaning there was a fire in District 1, between the Provincetown Inn and Franklin Street. A new American LaFrance pumper truck — or “engine” — was delivered in 1945. Edward A. Noones (1904-1984), a garage manager, was the captain of Pumper 1 in 1949 when a group portrait, shown here, was taken at quarters. Other members were Peter Leonard, Manny Morris, Joseph Perry, Frank R. Prada (1900-1955), John Raymond, Oscar Snow, Ralph Snow, Manuel Steele, and Eugene Watson. Noones went on to serve as a deputy fire chief and member of the Board of Engineers. Prada, a mechanic at the Cape Cod Garage and a consultant to the Water Department, succeeded Noones as captain.
Provincetown Pumper No. 1, by George Yater. Provincetown Artist Registry (George Yater). Image courtesy of the Bakker Project.
Joseph Andrews at the wheel of Pumper No. 1. He served in the company for 29 years and on the Board of Engineers for 23 years. Photo courtesy of Joseph Andrews.
At a performance of the Linguiça Band in the Engine 1 fire house were Franklin Oliver, Joseph Crawley, Frank Aresta and Joseph Andrews (on accordions), Anthony Russell and Lorne Russell (on guitars). Photo courtesy of Joseph Andrews.
The boatbuilder Joseph Andrews joined Pumper 1 in 1951. Andrews was a member of this house for 29 years — 23 of which he served simultaneously on the Board of Engineers — until his retirement in 1980. Another long-serving member of the company was John Sylvester “Mayor” Meads (1914-2000). Provincetown’s five fire companies were not only devoted to the critical business of fire suppression, but served as social centers, too. Members of Engine Company 1, for instance, formed the Linguiça Band.
Provincetown Pumper No. 1 was immortalized by the prominent painter George Yater (1910-1993). Atop the cupola over the hose-drying loft, you can see the alarm that summoned the volunteer firefighting crews to duty. Andrews remembered that in his youth, fire alarms were sounded by steam whistles at the cold storage plants around town. When word of a fire reached the telephone switching office, an operator would call the nearest cold storage plant, where men workeed around the clock stoking the steam furnaces. Blasts on the cold-storage whistles sounded the alarm. As the plants converted to electricity, sirens were installed at individual fire stations.
After 28 years of service, the American LaFrance engine was replaced in 1973 by a Ford/Maxim pumper. “The men of House No. 1 trained so extensively on with it that they took a trophy on Fire Prevention Week for first place,” the Board of Engineers reported.
But in the fateful year of 1988, voters at Town Meeting approved plans for a new fire headquarters, which included decommissioning the headquarters at 254 Commercial Street, as well as Fire Station 2 at 189 Commercial Street, and Fire Station 1. Members of Engine Company 1 in 1993, its final year in this building, were Capt. Ronald White, Lt. Russell Zawaduk, Leo Childs III (who was the steward, tending the apparatus and making sure all equipment was in good repair and ready for use), John Bumpus, Vaughn Cabral, Agapito Cannela Jr., Matthew Childs, Mark Lambrou, Lawrence Meads, John Reis, Mark Roderick, Philbert Roderick, James Silva Jr. (auxiliary), Paul Silva, and David White.
Fire Station No. 1 while it was still in use. Note the siren atop the cupola, which is also visible in the Yater painting. There is no window directly under the gable, as there is now. The truck bay opening is also taller. The photograph is from Britton W. Crosby’s Provincetown Fire Department history on CapeCodFD.com.
Bryan Rafanelli and Mark Walsh are close to Hillary Clinton, and boldly declared their presidential preference in 2016. By David W. Dunlap.
The truck bay, doubling as a front porch, includes some firefighting motifs. 2008, Dunlap.
The cupola once topped the hose-drying loft. It can be seen across the grounds of Coast Guard Station Provincetown. 2008, Dunlap.
Fire Station No. 1 is now a private home. It has been owned since 2002 by Bryan Rafanelli of Rafanelli Events in Boston, a celebrated contemporary event planner, and his partner, Mark Walsh. (They also own Unit 2 and Unit 3 on the former Sal’s Wharf, 99 Commercial Street.) Some preservationists were dismayed by the changes made to the facade of the old fire house by previous owners, but Rafanelli and Walsh have tried to keep its spirit alive — playfully — through the décor of their front porch, set within the truck bay. During the 2016 presidential campaign, they flew a large Hillary Clinton flag, reflecting their close association with the former secretary of state and her family.
Engine Company 1 still exists as a body of firefighters. It is currently assigned to a 2002 Freightliner/Ferrara, Engine 190, housed at the main station on Shank Painter Road.
Engine 190, to which Engine Company 1 is assigned, pulling out of the main Shank Painter Road fire station in 2011. Dunlap.
¶ Last updated 21 June 2021.
• Artemus Hannum
Find a Grave Memorial No. 51347934.
• John Meads
Find a Grave Memorial No. 35396571.
¹ Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 2, Page 114. Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 1335.