New Bern Former Firehouses

See more photos from 2005

Content originally created in 2005
Page last updated April 1, 2022

Change Log: April 1, 2022 - Reformatted page, replaced small photos with larger versions, added Sanborn Map excerpts, updated content in a few spots.

Introduction

The modern history of firefighting in New Bern began with the formation of the Atlantic Hook and Ladder Company in 1845. The volunteer organization was the first chartered fire company in both New Bern and in North Carolina. The second prominent fire company was organized in 1865, when Union soldiers staying behind after the Civil War created the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1. Though they operated a hand pump at first, the company received an Amoskeag steam engine three years later. The Atlantic Company received their first steamer in 1879, and the New Bern Company received a replacement steamer in 1884. With the delivery of the new Silsby and Button engines, the rivalry grew between the Atlantic and the newly nicknamed Button Fire Company until 1928 when the two companies moved into a single fire station. 

Old City Hall

220-226 Craven Street
Opened by 1885 / Closed 1928
Presently retail space

Built between 1816 and 1818 as a row of four brick stores, this Federal-period building is the earliest surviving commercial structure in New Bern. By 1885, one of the stores was converted to an engine house for the Atlantic Steam Fire Engine Company. By 1888, the entire building was purchased by the city for use as a City Hall. Around 1905, a brick-veneered facade was added to the building.

The three-story structure served as an engine house and later fire department headquarters until 1928, when all operations were consolidated into a single building at 420 Broad Street. In 1935, the remaining city offices were moved to their present location at 300 Pollock Street.
The 8,050 square-foot building is presently used as retail space.

Old Atlantic Company

405 Broad Street
Opened 1913 / Closed 1928
Presently part of restaurant 

Built between 1888 and 1893, this three-story brick building served a variety of purposes during its early years. Occupants included the Hotel Neuse by 1898, the meeting rooms of the Elks' Lodge by 1904, and one of the city's two fire companies beginning in 1913.

The Atlantic Fire Company occupied the building from 1913 until 1928. Fire poles were installed between the three floors. The fire company relocated to a new station on the opposite side of Broad Street in 1928.

The 6,000 square-foot former fire station presently serves as banquet space for an adjoining restaurant.

Originally addressed 57 Broad Street, when occupied as a fire station, it was later numbered 55-57 and 403-405.

 

Old Station 1

420 Broad Street
Opened 1928 / Closed 2000
Presently fire museum

After decades of operating from separate facilities, the Atlantic and Button companies moved into a single fire station in 1928. The two-story brick building was equipped with a tower for drying hose, four apparatus bays, and a second-floor porch. Though the rivalries between the Atlantic and Button companies were put to rest, one concession was made to their competitive history: the station contained two separate brass fire poles, one for each company.

After City Hall was moved to Pollock Street in 1935, one of the three copper bears adorning the Craven Street structure was moved to the front of the fire station. In June 2000, the fire companies and fire department offices relocated to a new Station 1 at 1401 Neuse Boulevard. The 7,500 square-foot former fire station is presently empty and planned for expansion of the neighboring New Bern Firemen's Museum.

In 2016, the New Bern Fire Museum moved into old Station 1 after 60 years in a small, one-story building on Hancock Street, behind the fire station. They also spent nearly $1 million to repair and renovate the building. The formal dedication was held on December 1, 2017.

Old Station 2

500 Fort Totten Drive
Opened 1951 / Closed 2000
Presently youth center

In the early 1950s, the New Bern Fire Department expanded from one to three stations. Both initially housed a GMC pumper and were staffed with a single paid person. The GMC pumper at Station 2 served both the city and county. It was soon replaced by a city-only engine and the fire department ceased county protection at that time.

In 2000, the facility was closed as a new Station 1 opened around the corner on Neuse Boulevard. A new Station 2 subsequently opened at 800 West Thurman Road. The 1,151 square-foot former fire station presently as a youth center for a local non-profit organization.

Old Station 3

1700 National Avenue
Opened 1955 / Closed 2003
Presently privately owned

The residential-style Station 3 opened in 1955, also with a GMC pumper and a single paid person. Located in the Riverfront community, the station was closed in 2003 due to overlapping coverage from the new Station 1.

Circa 2005 or later, the 774 square-foot former fire station was used by the Parks and Recreation Department. It was subsequently sold to a private owner circa 2021. Station 4 at 3101 Elizabeth Avenue was later renumbered as Station 3.

City Hall Building

Different sections of the City Hall building on Craven Street served the fire department between 1885 and 1928. The first engine house was located in the second (2) of the building's four sections. From before 1898 until after 1898, the fire department occupied the second (2) and third (3) sections. By 1904, two fire companies shared the second (2), third (3), and a portion of the fourth (4) section. Their equipment included two steam engines, two hose wagons, four horses on duty, and two horses in reserve. The hook and ladder truck and a hand hose reel were stored in separate buildings behind City Hall. See Sanborn Map excerpt above.

By 1908, the engine house had moved to the fourth (4) section of the City Hall building. Six paid drivers on constant duty staffed the station, along with two paid engineers. By 1913, the hook and ladder truck was housed in the second (2) section, and a hose wagon, a steam engine, and three horses were housed in the fourth (4) section. By 1924, both Station 2 and fire department headquarters occupied only the fourth (4) section. Additional structures over the years behind the building included a fire bell tower and assorted hose platforms.

Other Early Engine Houses


Riverside Fire Company at unknown location.

Numerous buildings served as engine houses over the decades in New Bern, including such structures as:

41 Middle Street - Two-story engine house and later combination fire station and synagogue, from before 1888 until after 1893.

141 Broad Street - Fourth Ward Fire Company station circa 1913.

George and Cypress streets - Riverside Fire Company station at the intersection, circa 1913.

Hancock and Broad streets - New Bern Steam Engine Company in a two-story building on the northeast corner.

 

See Daniel Bartholf's book History of Firefighting in New Bern, North Carolina Colonial Days to the 21st Century, published in 2019, for more early engine houses.

 In addition to the Riverside and Fourth Ward companies, other late 19th and early 20th century fire companies included the Excelsior Bucket and Axe Company, the Holden Fire Company, the Independent Colored Fire Company, the Mechanics Hook and Ladder Company, the Reliance Bucket and Axe Company, and the Rough and Ready Fire Company.

Maps

References

The Series

 

Charlotte
Durham
Fayetteville
Goldsboro
Greensboro
High Point
Kinston
New Bern
Raleigh
Rocky Mount / Wilson
Wilmington
Winston-Salem

Note

A version of this article was published on FireNews.net on January 6, 2005.


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