Volunteer firefighters in Glendale and their link to FDNY history: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

Members of the Ivanhoe Hook and Ladder Company 10 are pictured in this early 20th century photo with their horse-drawn wagon.
Ridgewood Times archives

On July 25, 1896, the Ivanhoe Park Hose Company, a volunteer fire company, was organized with G.H. Fischer as foreman. There were 30 members in the company.

The company came to be through the help of Henry W. Meyer, a wealthy Glendale resident who manufactured Ivanhoe brand chewing tobacco. He donated funds to the volunteer firemen to help them buy their equipment, and even had a pumping station built for them to ensure they had enough water to fight fires.

Meyer built the station on part of 54 acres of land previously part of the Edsall Farm which he had purchased back in August 1889. This tract of land, which included a large farmhouse, was bounded by present-day streets Fresh Pond Road on the west, Central Avenue on the south, Catalpa Avenue on the north and 69th Place and 70th Street on the east.

In the years that followed, homes would be developed on much of this land as part of the Ivanhoe Park development, named of course for the tobacco company.

In October 1896, the Ivanhoe Park Fire Company expanded to include hook and ladder equipment. The members then applied for admission into the Newtown Fire Department, a volunteer department made up of fire units in various villages in the township. 

When they added the hook and ladder equipment, the name of the company was changed to the Ivanhoe Hook and Ladder Company. On Dec. 21, 1896, their application was approved, and they became part of the Newtown Fire Department, and were designated as Ivanhoe Hook and Ladder Company 10. 

Company 10 built a firehouse on the east side of Fresh Pond Road (now Cypress Hills Street) and Myrtle Avenue on a plot of land formerly part of the Backus Family Farm. 

The Ivanhoe Hook and Ladder was pulled by two horses. Whenever word was received of a fire, a gong rang out to alert nearby firemen to report for duty. The horses were eager to be off and running. When they were let out of their stalls into the stable area, the harness which was suspended from the ceiling was dropped onto their backs. A chain across the stable area was then dropped, and the horses released from the stable. The hose was stored on a platform on the underside of the wagon.

The volunteer work, like traditional firefighter duty, came with risk. On Jan. 76, 1912, 36-year-old Jacob Witzman, a volunteer with Ivanhoe Hook and Ladder Company 10, suffered an injury. He drove the team of two horses to a fire along Fresh Pond Road when the horses suddenly galloped out of control. 

Witzman shouted to the other firemen on the wagon to jump to save themselves. Before they could do so, the horses ran into a fence at the Long Island Rail Road crossing at the corner of Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue.

Six firemen were thrown off their wagon, but only Witzman was hurt. He was treated at German Hospital (today known as Wyckoff Heights Medical Center) and was released.

In January 1913, the New York City Fire Department, with its team of paid firefighters, began replacing the volunteer fire companies of Newtown. Seven New York City companies would replace 13 volunteer fire companies, and six new firehouses were constructed. One of these firehouses was built at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Witte Street (today 66th Place). It remains in use to this day as the headquarters of the “Myrtle Turtles” of Engine Company 286/Ladder Company 135.

This photo of the 2009 Ridgewood-Glendale Memorial Day Parade shows marchers heading past the headquarters of Engine Company 286/Ladder Company 135.

The new headquarters were scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, 1913, but as the projected completion date approached, it became obvious that the new firehouse wouldn’t be ready. The FDNY made arrangements to house Engine Company 286 out of the former Ivanhoe Company 10 firehouse until the new headquarters was ready.

Finally, on Dec. 23, 1913, the new firehouse was ready, and Engine 286 moved in. Ladder Company 135 was established and moved in that very same day. The ladder company had long extension ladders designed to reach three stories and higher. 

As the Ridgewood/Glendale area was growing, three story residential houses became common — and tall ladders were required in the event of a serious fire.

Meanwhile, the former headquarters of Ivanhoe Hook and Ladder 10 was sold to the Yale Republican Club and re-developed.

Reprinted from the July 31, 1986, Ridgewood Times

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