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The look of Patterson's business sections, clustered either in the village area or in the Towners hamlet, changed several times over the years as a result of serious fires that burned through one or many buildings. Fire fighting in the early days was as simple as an alert citizen sounding the alarm after seeing suspicious smoke coming from a home or business. Volunteers would form a bucket brigade to extinguish the fire. A formal fire department was not established until the 20th century, and Patterson relied on the fire departments of neighboring towns to help when a bucket brigade was not enough.
Typical of the fires faced by early Patterson businesses occurred early on a Monday morning in June, 1900. The fire was thought to have been caused by a cigar stump dropped through a crack in the wooden sidewalk in front of the meat market owned by J. H. Schenck. The cigar ignited debris under the sidewalk and soon started a fire under the store. Mr. Schenck discovered the fire, and was able to enlist the help of passers-by, many of whom were arriving in the village for the daily mail delivery. Fellow storeowner O. W. Sloat grabbed his Rex fire extinguisher and joined the effort. The Rex unit was credited with saving the store.
|An ad for the Rex fire extinguisher from the June 27, 1902 edition of the Putnam County Courier.|
A disastrous fire in April, 1902, destroyed much of the business district along the railroad tracks in the village of Patterson. Mrs. Claus Moline, whose husband co-owned the Akin & Moline business, discovered a fire at approximately 7:30 PM on a mid-April Saturday night. She alerted her husband, who failed to contain the blaze with a portable Phoenix fire extinguisher. Several other businesses were also burning, with the glow of the fire seen as far away as Mt. Kisco in Westchester County, several miles south of Patterson. Without a fire department, local citizens had to pitch in to fight the blaze in what proved to be a test of human endurance. A bucket brigade of 35 men was quickly formed, and water had to be brought to them from a half mile away. The water was transported in milk cans on horse-drawn wagons. Because of the weight of the water, the horses were led within 6 feet of the burning buildings to ease the burden on the bucket brigade. The men had to cover themselves with wet blankets to protect themselves from the flames. By 10:00 PM a firefighting crew from Brewster arrived with a Babcock fire extinguisher, but by then most of the business block had already been lost. The Brewster crew was able to clear a path for the officials of Pendleton & Townsend to reach their safe and retrieve their books. The fires continued to burn until Sunday morning.
|Patterson residents examine the charred remains of the business block on Railroad Avenue that was destroyed on April 5, 1902. The New York Central Railroad depot is on the right in the second photograph. (The Patterson Historical Society)|
The damage done by the fire was severe. The large Pendleton & Townsend factory was destroyed, and the factory's workers lost their tools, and none were insured. Pendleton & Townsend manufactured sash, blinds, moldings, and doors, and had over $10,000 in orders pending, $3,000 of which were considered priority orders that had to be sent to other mills. The grain elevator owned by Akin & Moline was also destroyed. A barn owned by Dr. T. P. Birdsall was destroyed, but his house was saved. The sheds and store of J. L. Irish & Son, the Thompson grocery store, the Lewis Michalicka dry goods store, the shoe shop of Armund Swanson, and the home of the J. H. Robins family were also destroyed, although some were able to save some of their personal belongings or stock. In all 6 buildings were destroyed in losses estimated at $50,000. The fire was thought to have started in the Pendleton & Townsend factory, probably from a spark from the boiler that ran the machinery. The owners had inspected the building before closing it for the night, and all seemed well. Scrap wood shavings and sawdust was fed to the boiler as fuel. The losses to the businesses were many times the insurance carried by their owners. Pendleton & Townsend fared the best because it had already constructed a new 39' x 48' three story building next to the main factory. Right after the fire, Pendleton & Townsend considered moving the factory to Williamsbridge in the Bronx, but decided instead to operate the business from the new building. The building was enlarged to house an office, a two-story drying kiln, and an engine room. The boiler was housed in a separate building. Akin & Moline was dissolved, although Moline planned to rebuild the business. The rest of the village was spared because of the unusually wind-free night air. The difficulty in fighting the fire led to discussions about the need for a reliable water supply in the village. In the days after the fire, the Town saw many junk men scavenging the ruins.
|More views of the aftermath of the April, 1902 fire. (The Patterson Historical Society)|
A few months later, in July, 1902, another disaster was narrowly averted. A burning cinder from a passing Saturday afternoon New York Central train landed on the roof of the Patterson railroad depot, and started a fire on the wooden roof. A bucket brigade was pressed into service again, and the fire was extinguished before much damage was done to the structure.
Patterson had another brush with disaster in June, 1905. Patterson resident Alex Hall was awakened around 2:00 AM on a Wednesday morning by a bright light coming from his blacksmith shop. Hall raced to the shop and discovered a blaze in the shop, and sounded an alarm as he raced to a nearby well to fetch water. A handful of sleepy residents heard his call and responded by forming a bucket brigade. The fire was quickly controlled. If it had it not been discovered early, the blaze would have burned through the frame building and burned the entire block to Sloat's corner. The fire was most likely caused by a burning ember that dropped below the floor through a crack and smoldered for several hours before burning through the floor. In reporting the account of the fire, the Patterson Weekly News noted the need for a better water supply in the village to better protect the buildings against future fires.
Alex Hall was to have another experience with fire in May, 1910. Shortly after 9:00 PM on a Tuesday evening, a fire was discovered in his barn, which was located just behind the business block on Railroad Avenue, now known as Front Street. Still without a fire department, an alarm was sounded and both men and women responded to form a bucket brigade. The fire spread to the roof of the nearby Columbia House, but was quickly extinguished. As a precaution, many of the surrounding businesses and homes were evacuated. Patterson Postmaster Penny cleared his office, Wright Brothers Jewelers removed its stock, and Mrs. Charles Kniffen, an invalid, was carried from her home. The bucket brigade received some assistance from a rain shower, and the fire was contained to the barn, which was destroyed. The cause of the fire was never determined.
|Many business owners carried insurance for fire. The Home Insurance Company of New Haven, Connecticut specialized in fire and property insurance. This 1866 policy indicates that Cyrus B. Lawrence was the company's agent in Patterson. (Ed Scrivani)|
Two fires struck Patterson over a weekend in February, 1911. The first destroyed the barn on the Stahl farm, which was occupied by William Watts. Watts had just brought his horses to the barn at approximately 11:00 AM on that Saturday morning, and all seemed well. The fire spread quickly, and Watts and other farm workers moved quickly to remove the horses, wagons, and tools. With little water at hand, and no fire department to call, the flames quickly consumed the structure. Several hundred dollars worth of grain and hay were lost. Watts was uninsured. Several hours later, at 1:30 AM Monday, flames were discovered in the Christ Episcopal Church, located on NYS Route 311 and Maple Avenue, by the neighbors living opposite the church. The alarm was sounded by using the church bell, the school bell from the district school across from the church, and by telephone. With little help at that hour of the night, and with little means to fight the fire, the church was soon reduced to ashes. The building was heated by a woodstove, and church services were held in the church early Sunday morning without difficulty. The church building was the gift of Mrs. J. H. Cornwall, and was insured. Elders of the neighboring Patterson Presbyterian Church offered the use of their church to the congregation of the Christ Episcopal Church. The present church is the successor to the one that burned.
Another major fire struck Patterson in January, 1917, this time on the Main Street side of the business strip in the village. Main Street is now known as NYS Route 311. The fire was first noticed at 7:30 AM on a Sunday morning when Dr. Haviland saw smoke coming from the hardware store of George Robinson, which was located at the corner of Orchard Street. Dr. Haviland rushed into the building, which contained apartments over the stores, and found an unoccupied room on the third floor in flames. As was typical with fires in the village, there was no ready supply of water to be used to fight the fire. An alarm was sounded, and a bucket brigade was organized, but not before the fire spread throughout the frame building. Many of the tenants, including the families of William Scofield, Losee Fisher, and Louis Crane, had difficulty getting out of the building due to the smoke and rapidly spreading flames. The fire soon engulfed the adjoining building, owned by Anita Concklin and occupied by Fred Smith. A shed behind the buildings was next to burn, and the house recently purchased by Henry Ballard. The inferno then spread west across Orchard Street to the store block owned by Charles Turner and known as the "Bee Hive". Nathan Richmond occupied the store, and had recently moved from the Irish block on Railroad Avenue, now known as Front Street. The residential dwelling behind the Bee Hive went next, and then the garage of Henry Ballard. At this point, neighboring property owners and tenants were busy evacuating their belongings, expecting their buildings to be next. Without a fire department of its own, Patterson issued a call for help from the Carmel Fire Department. A chemical engine was dispatched from Carmel and made the nine mile trip to Patterson, arriving an hour later at 9:20 AM. The Patterson bucket brigade had already lost its battle with the spreading inferno. The Carmel fire crew of five men, under the command of William D. Smalley, brought the fire under control, using six tanks of chemicals. Seven buildings were destroyed, with losses estimated at $25,000, including two entire business blocks and three residential dwellings. Most building owners were insured, but not for the complete loss of the buildings and their store stock and personal possessions. The fire was believed to have started in a chimney, and quickly spread to the pine-sided wall of the building.
|A Rex chemical firefighting engine, from an ad that appeared in the July 19, 1897 edition of the Putnam County Courier.||The Carmel Fire Dept. assists at a Patterson fire in January, 1917. This photo appeared in the January 12, 1917 edition of the Putnam County Courier.|
The effectiveness of the Carmel Fire Department and the futility of the bucket brigade approach to fighting fires led to a renewed discussion of the need for better fire protection for Patterson. The Patterson Weekly News wrote:
"...it is to be hoped that the effective work done by their [Carmel Fire Department] machine will arouse sufficient enthusiasm among our property owners to induce them to invest at least ten dollars in Rex fire extinguishers. There is no question that had we had a similar apparatus to that of Carmel at the start the fire could have been confined to the building in which it started and doubtless a portion of that saved."The Danbury News added:
Had the chemical [truck] not arrived when it did it is believed that the entire town would have been destroyed."
The Towners hamlet suffered a few disastrous fires too. At 1:30 AM on a Monday morning in February, 1908, residents in the Towners area were awakened by the whistle blasts of a passing Central New England train. The engineer had noticed a fire in the north end of the large grain elevator owned by Eaton & Kelley Co. The elevator was located between the New York Central and Central New England tracks on what is now known as NYS Route 164. It is ironic that the train whistle sounded the alarm, since the cause of the fire was later thought to be a spark from a passing locomotive that smoldered and later burned through the wooden skin of the elevator. The train tracks passed within a few feet of the elevator and the nearby W. S. Crosby General Store, which also caught fire after high winds swept the flames over the Crosby's sheds and store. Owners of both businesses realized that the buildings could not be saved because there was no fire department to fight the fires. Both owners salvaged whatever business records they could. The Crosby store also housed the Post Office, and Postal records and supplies were also salvaged from the burning building. Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Bennett, who lived in the apartment over the store, were awakened and escaped safely, but lost all their possessions. It took only an hour for both buildings to burn to the ground. Crosby's son, E.C. Crosby, decided to operate the store temporarily from his home. Eaton & Kelley's feed mill and grain elevator complex was filled to capacity with grains of various types, but the company announced that it would try to salvage its business in some fashion. Both businesses were insured, but not sufficiently to cover the devastating losses. Both businesses were located along the road now known as NYS Route 164, and the ex-Central New England Railroad/ New Haven Railroad Maybrook Line tracks remain.
Another major fire occurred in Towners in June, 1917, when the Croton Lake House, a popular hotel, was destroyed by fire. A roof fire was discovered around 4:00 on a Tuesday afternoon, and a call for help was made by telephone. Neighbors began arriving by automobile, and a bucket brigade was formed. However, there were few buckets and no nearby water source, and the firefighting effort soon proved to be futile. The house was destroyed in less than an hour, but a nearby house was saved. Once again there was discussion about organizing a Patterson fire department.
"To be sure, the ardent labor of our citizens and buckets of water have done wonders for our village, but a time may come when a few buckets of water will not save our little village from the tongues of fire; and after our homes are ruins, someone may say, 'We ought to have had a fire department and water supply long ago.'"It would take another 20 years and several major fires before Patterson took the first steps towards establishing a fire department.
In December, 1918, a committee comprised of M. B. Townsend, John E. Carey, and Jacob Bloch began a private effort to raise funds for the purchase of two chemical fire engines and a hook-and-ladder truck. They were local business owners, and it was the business owners who had suffered the most in many of the major fires in the Patterson village. The committee wanted to form a volunteer fire department and install a fire alarm system around the village. Despite it best intentions, a fire department did not result from their efforts.
In April, 1921, several residents in the Patterson village began a petition drive calling for the formation of a fire district and the purchase of fire fighting equipment. Although there had been much discussion in the early 20th century of establishing a formal firefighting program, nothing had been done. The catalyst for the petition drive was a fire in the Rutledge barn that claimed the life of Charles Hawley and also killed several animals. The organizers of the petition drive wanted to collect a sufficient number of signatures of Patterson taxpayers to present to the Putnam County Board of Supervisors, which had to grant permission to the town of Patterson to form the fire district. The organizers also wanted to precipitate discussion about the boundaries of the fire district: should it only include the village, or extend into Towners, or perhaps encompass the entire township?
|Read a short history of the Patterson Fire Dept., prepared by Department historian Robert J. Bell, Jr.||The legal notice for the special election appeared in the May 27, 1921 edition of the Putnam County Courier.||The Patterson Fire Department's first fire fighting engine is examined by townspeople in this undated photograph. (The Patterson Historical Society) The engine is a 1922 Buffalo Chemical Truck, which was built on an Oldsmobile Economy truck chassis. The photo was taken across from the Towner's Station of the New York Central Railroad, which is the building on the right. The building on the left was a turkey factory. It appears that a rubbish or brush fire has just been extinguished.|
By the middle of May sufficient signatures had been gathered on the petition to begin the process of forming a fire district. It was decided that the district would cover the entire township, and that the fire department would not be a volunteer department, even though the members of the department would not be paid. The Town Board decided that the department would be established with a $4,000 budget, and that amount was to be put before the Town's voters in a special election to be held in June. Part of that money would be used to purchase a chemical fire engine and other equipment. The Patterson Town Board appointed 43 town residents to serve in the department, and the department would report to the Town Board. The department members appointed the Dr. R. F. Haviland to the post of Captain, and Junia W. Dykeman, Jr. was appointed Lieutenant. Paul Townsend was appointed Secretary, and Lucius Pendleton was appointed Treasurer. John E. Carey, D. C. Nichols, and M. B. Townsend were appointed trustees. The new officers understood that ongoing funding would be required to maintain the new department, and they appointed a fundraising committee. The Putnam House was being remodeled to function as an entertainment hall, and the committee planned to purchase a motion picture projector with the intention of making an arrangement with the Putnam House to show movies there once or twice each week, with the proceeds to benefit the Patterson Fire Department.
In September, 1921, the Town announced that it had purchased a fire engine from the Obenchain-Boyer Company of Logansport, Indiana, for $3,500. The purchase was made through the E. Fowler & Son, of Carmel. The truck was an Oldsmobile Economy two-ton truck with a 30-40 horsepower engine, and equipped with three chemical tanks and other fire fighting equipment. The tanks were designed to allow an empty tank to be recharged while another tank was in operation, so that a fire could be fought continuously. 300 feet of hose were stored in two baskets over the chemical tanks. 2 half-gallon portable fire extinguishers, a 24-foot extension ladder, a 12 foot ladder with folding hooks, and extra charges of soda and acid were also included on the truck. The truck featured electric headlights and a searchlight on the dashboard. The truck was painted Sagamore red, and had gold leaf and black stripes, trimming and lettering. The engine could reach a top speed of 40 mph. Since there was no firehouse to store the truck, arrangements were made with Pendleton & Townsend to store the truck temporarily in an annex of their boiler room building. The company's whistle was also used for a time as a fire alert signal.
Patterson's new fire truck arrived in November, 1921 and was tested by Patterson's new fire department. A collection of old barrels was set afire in the village, and the new equipment effectively extinguished the blaze. The truck was also tested on Patterson's roads, and found capable of climbing Patterson's many hilly roads.
|The Patterson Fire Dept. staged a fundraising Black Face stage show at Patterson Town Hall in 1929. The Town Hall at the time was located in the building formerly known as the Jacob Stahl Hall, which was located on Main Street (NYS 311) just west of Locust Street. The photo appeared in the Putnam County Courier on November 11, 1929.|
Patterson's young fire department fought many fires and its engine was a tremendous improvement over the bucket brigade. In January, 1928, another major fire occurred in the village, this time striking the Putnam House - the very house that the Fire Department used for fund raising motion picture shows. The house had been built by Jacob Stahl almost 35 years earlier, and was now owned by Peter O'Hara. The house had been used as a summer hotel, and stood three stories high with an attic. At the time of the fire, the house had three families living in apartments that had been converted from the hotel rooms. The walls of the structure were thin wood, and the interior walls were also constructed of thin boards. The construction allowed flames to travel quickly. The fire was discovered at 11:00 on a Monday night, and its close proximity to other structures caused concern that the village would see another still another inferno that would quickly consume the entire block. Neighboring buildings included the store and home of Morris Skidmore, the garage of Jack McCartney, and the Patterson Town Hall. The chemical engine was joined by a group of volunteers carrying water, but it soon became apparent that the Patterson Fire Department and its lone fire engine would not be able to battle the fire alone. Calls for assistance were made to the fire departments of Pawling, Brewster, and Carmel. All departments responded to the call, but the Pawling engine was delayed when one of its skid chains became tangled in the drive train. When the Pawling company arrived, it joined with the Carmel department in cutting holes in the ice of the pond on the other side of the New York Central tracks in order to reach water. The pond was 1200 feet from the fire, and the Pawling and Carmel companies had to combine their hoses to reach the fire. The three families occupying the old Putnam House evacuated safely, but lost all of their possessions. The building was destroyed at a loss of $12,000, only part of which was covered by insurance. The neighboring buildings were saved. The Morris Crookston family, which had just moved into the third floor a few days earlier after relocating from Brewster, is thought to have caused the fire by overheating the chimney trying to heat the drafty apartment. The risk of another major fire led to a decision in February, 1927 to purchase a Haun 400 gallon pumper from Cecil D. Barclay for $5,800. The new truck arrived in July, 1927.
The Department's first permanent home was on Main Street (NYS Route 311), next to the Patterson Town Hall, which was the former Jacob Stahl Hall. The Department's garage was a simple wood structure, located on the grounds of the old Putnam House. The garage still stands, and is now used by the Town for storage. The old fire whistle still stands next to it, located atop a wood pole.
In March, 1933, the Patterson Fire Department reorganized as a membership corporation, with the approval of the Patterson Town Board. The Department was renamed the Patterson Fire Department #1, Incorporated. The Department was now an organization independent of the Town government, but the Town would contract with the Department for fire protection services within Patterson. The Patterson #1 purchased land and a pond from Sheffield farms that month, with the pond to be used as a water source for the pumper truck.
|Top Row: The Patterson Fire Department marches on Main Street (NYS Route 311) in the vicinity of Locust Street, in a Memorial Day parade, in 1946. (The Patterson Historical Society) Behind the stone wall was the old DeBourbon mansion. The property formerly beloged to the Hayts, and, in 1920, the property was purchased by the Guaranty Trust Co. Of New York and used as a rest home for its employees.|
|Bottom Row: Men of the Patterson Fire Department
pose in front of the firehouse on Main Street near Locust Street in approximately
1951. The firehouse still stands. The photo on the right shows the first
Patterson Fire Dept. ambulance, a Cadillac purchased in February, 1951.
It was one of the most modern vehicles in the village. (The Patterson Historical
In 1971, the Patterson Fire Dept. No. 1 celebrated its 50th anniversary. Selected pages from the anniversary journal are viewable. In the final photo, Patterson Supervisor and former Fire Chief Donald B. Smith leads the 50th anniversary parade down NYS Route 311 at Maple Avenue in September, 1971. The anniversary events were attended by thousands, including volunteer fireman from New York and Connecticut, and residents of Patterson and the surrounding area. The picture appeared in the September 22, 1971 edition of the Putnam County Courier.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the fire siren control was located in One Buck's Tavern, located on NYS Route 311 at the corner of Orchard Street. It was convenient to locate the control there since the tavern was open late - until 2 AM - and could be activated late at night if needed.
In February, 1951, the Department purchased an ambulance with money raised through fundraising events. The Cadillac ambulance was beige in color, and came equipped with a mobile stretcher bed and two seats that could be converted into additional stretchers, if needed. There were three regular drivers assigned to the ambulance, and all were trained in emergency first aid. The ambulance made its first trip a few days after being placed in service, when it transported Frank Gangloff, father of Mrs. Leola Smith, owner of Lee's Diner on Front Street, to a hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut. Mr. Gangloff had suffered a heart attack. The next day, Mrs. Ann Suchocki was transported from her apartment in the American House, now the site of Patterson Town Hall, to Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie. Until the late 1960s, the ambulance took the sick and injured to Vassar Hospital or St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie. The closest hospital in Putnam County at the time was in Mahopac, and it was not as well equipped for emergencies as Vassar. Before the ambulance was purchased, the injured or sick were taken to the home of Dr. Genovese in the village of Patterson, where Dr. Genovese's skill - and luck - often meant the difference between survival and death.
Annual carnivals have been used by the Patterson Fire Department to provide a major part of its annual budget. For many years, the Department also relied on performances by the Hunt Brothers Circus to earn revenue for the Department. In May, 1959, the annual Circus performance was held in Patterson at the baseball field, which was located approximately across the railroad tracks from the present Patterson Town Hall. 50 acts were featured along with Hunt's traveling zoo. Performing elephants, trained horses and ponies, dogs, monkeys, and other animals attracted crowds to the annual event.
A new ambulance would arrive in August, 1962. The new model was a 1961 Cadillac, which replaced the 1951 model. Fire Chief Donald B. Smith explained that the new ambulance was taller than the old one, allowing for more headroom and more storage space for equipment. The new ambulance also featured power brakes and steering, which the 1951 model did not have. The Fire Department Auxiliary had raised $3,000 for its purchase, but more fundraising campaigns would needed to pay for the new vehicle. Department records indicated that the ambulance was used an average of 70 times per year.
In August, 1961, a landmark farmhouse on the Mendel Farm was destroyed by fire. The methods used by the Fire Department to fight the blaze were typical of the Department's mid-20th century firefighting strategy.
In the early 1960s, there were several farms in Patterson owned by members of the Mendel family. Lawrence Mendel Sr. owned a farm along NYS Route 311 where the current Covington Greens Condominium complex is located. The fire took place in a farmhouse on the Ernest Mendel farm, which was located on NYS Route 22 and is the present location of the Watchtower Farm. The old farmhouse was a three-story building that was once a drover's inn, used by cattle drovers in the days when cattle were herded to southern markets down the road that is now NYS Route 22. The house was known locally as the Towners Haviland House, and was considered the best example of colonial architecture in Patterson. At the time of the fire, the house was rented to one of Mendel's farm hands, but was unoccupied because the tenant had moved out of the house a few days earlier. The tenant's furniture and other belongings were still in the house. The fire was discovered by Mrs. Mendel, who could see the fire from the window of the Mendel home, which was located a short distance from the old farmhouse. The Patterson Fire Dept. was summoned shortly after 8:30 PM, and arrived a short time later with three trucks and 30 men. As the first fire crew arrived, flames ignited a 500-gallon fuel tank, which exploded, sending 50-foot flames into the night sky. The house was already beyond saving. Fire crews first tapped into a nearby stream for water, but the stream went dry. Hoses were then stretched into a small pond behind the Mendel home, but 2,700 feet of hose was needed to bring water to the fire. The house and its contents were completely destroyed. The firemen left the scene at 1:30 AM the following morning.
|The old Towners Haviland House burns on the Mendel Farm in August, 1961. The photo was published in the August 31, 1961 edition of the Putnam County Courier.|
A smaller house was built on the site of the old farmhouse, and it still stands today. It is the last house on the Watchtower Farm heading south on NYS Route 22, on the south side of the road, near the red barn. The pond also remains, but was enlarged by Watchtower. A pipe was added to provide an easy hookup for a fire pumper truck, should the water be needed to fight a fire.
At the time of the Mendel fire, the Fire Dept. used three trucks. Two were Mack pumper trucks, and the third was a Dodge. The old ice pond along the railroad tracks near the current Town Hall building was a major source of water for fighting fires in the hamlet area. One of the Mack trucks carried enough hose to reach from the pond to the intersection of NYS Route 22 and Haviland Hollow Road. The older Mack would typically be stationed at the pond to suck water into the hose. The Dodge truck would then be stationed midway along the route of the hose to act as a relay pump. The newer Mack pumper would be stationed at the fire scene. It was not unusual for the firemen to remove the muffler on the older trucks to get more power from the engine and allow the engine to work harder without overheating. It would take several hours for the firemen to drain the hose and place it back on the truck after a fire. A new International truck replaced the Dodge truck in the early 1960s. Careful coordination with the New York Central Railroad was necessary if a fire was west of the ice pond. A passing train could easily pass over the outstretched hose and cut it. Fire chiefs would contact the railroad to determine if any trains, passenger or freight, were due to pass through the village.
Fire would strike a Mendel Farm again in November, 1963. This time the fire was centered in a large barn on the farm of Albert Mendel and Sons on NYS Route 22, which adjoined the Ernest Mendel Farm. Albert was the father of Ernest Mendel. Albert Mendel and farm hands were able to drive the 150 head of cattle from the barn without injury. The morning fire started in a malfunctioning electric water heater, which set fire to nearby hay bales. Winds were blowing the fire in the direction of another barn that contained a milking herd of 50 cows. Mendel summoned the Fire Department, and Chief Donald Smith summoned mutual aid from the Putnam Lake Fire Department and the Pawling Fire Department. Lake Carmel sent an engine to the Patterson firehouse in the event another fire emergency was received while the Patterson department was fighting the Mendel blaze. The large barn was destroyed.
In a largely rural area like Patterson, barn fires were common in the mid-20th century. These fires were difficult for the Patterson Fire Department to fight, because livestock might be housed in the burning barn, or the barn may contain flammable fuels, or be used to store expensive farm equipment. The loss of livestock or equipment might destroy the business of a farmer. A large early morning blaze destroyed a barn on the Milton Kessman farm on Cornwall Hill Road in December, 1964. The farm and its contents could not be saved, but the Fire Department, responding with fifty men and three pieces of equipment, managed to save adjoining buildings. Kessman lost tractors and other equipment used to harvest sweet corn. Gasoline and propane tanks were moved before they could explode. A swimming pond just built by Kessman, was used as a water source.
In October, 1964, a new hospital was built to service eastern Putnam County and replace the obsolete nineteen bed Mahopac Hospital, which was built in 1941. Ambulance crews from the area fire departments made trial runs to the new Putnam Community Hospital, located on the site of the old Stoneleigh Farm on Stoneleigh Road in Carmel. The Patterson ambulance made the trip in twelve minutes. The crew included George McKeckron, Caleb Smith, Willie Boone, and Mrs. Frank Woron.
|The old Mahopac Hospital on Lake Boulevard, built in 1941. The medical service began in 1929 as the Mahopac Emergency Hospital, a three-room facility located in the Mahopac Firehouse. In 1941, the larger facility opened in the former Agriculture School building of the old Mahopac School. Several proposals were made to either expand or rebuild the hospital, but the pressures of a growing population in eastern Putnam County led to the construction of a new hospital in Carmel. The photo was published in the October 29, 1964 edition of the Putnam County Courier.||The new Putnam Community Hospital, dedicated in October, 1964. Any reususable equipment was relocated from Mahopac Hospital to Putnam Community Hospital. A stream of ambulances and moving vans transported patients and equipment from Mahopac to the new hospital on Tuesday morning, October 27, 1964. Teams of police, fire, and ambulance crews transported twenty patients in about one hour. Putnam Community Hospital cost $3 million, and had a 66-bed capacity. The photo was published in the October 29, 1964 edition of the Putnam County Courier.|
A new home for the Department was built in the fall of 1968, and was put into limited use as construction continued into 1969. The new building measured 110 feet by 60 feet with a large extended foyer in front. It was a one story structure of masonry construction, containing three bays that were each deep enough for two vehicles. The bays would house the fire fighting equipment and the ambulance. The building also contained a room for the chief, a kitchen, a first aid room, and space for meetings and recreational activities. Department president Charles Van Keuren announced that an open house would be held on June 8, 1969 even though the building still was not finished.
A substation was proposed for the Bullet Hole Road area of Patterson to protect the growing Patterson community. McGlasson Builders was building a large rental apartment complex on Bullet Hole Road to be known as the Forest Haven Apartments, and now known as the Fox Run Condominiums. It was the largest apartment complex in Patterson. Private homes were also being built along Bullet Hole Road, and the George Fischer Middle School was nearby. Recognizing the need for fire protection, McGlasson donated land adjoining the Forest Haven complex to the Patterson Fire Department. The substation would be a 35 ft. by 65 ft. building to cost an estimated $60,000. The structure would house four vehicles and contain a radio room, a meeting and recreation room, and a kitchen. Fire Chief James Tence stated that the substation would greatly reduce the response time of the Department. Construction would be completed in late spring, 1976.
The Patterson Fire Dept. would move again in 1991, when its new home was built across NYS Route 311 from the old firehouse. The old building was purchased and refurbished by the town of Patterson, and is now shared by the Town court and the Patterson Library Association.
Throughout its history, the Patterson Fire Department has fought fires throughout the Town, not only in the old frame structures in the village, but also in the farm houses and barns throughout the township. The Department also assisted in the many fires, explosions, and derailments suffered by the New York Central and New Haven Railroads. The Fire Department's home remains on NYS Route 311 near the railroad tracks in the Patterson Hamlet, with a substation ("#2") on Bullet Hole Road.
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