The Ipswich Fire Department building on Central Street was built for horse-drawn fire trucks

55 Central Street, Central Fire Station (1907)

The fire station on Central Street in Ipswich was built in 1907, replacing the fire house at Lord’s Square. Originally built for horse-drawn equipment, it took over the work of the smaller departments at the Old Town Hall, Warren St., Candlewood Rd. and several other locations in town when it became motorized. For over a century, the building has served as the town’s continuously-staffed fire station.

The Collum house fire, 2001

On a Tuesday night in January 2001 the Collum house at 18 Lafayette Street went up in flames. Harold Bowen once wrote that this house had been built from lumber that was salvaged when a tall wood fence surrounding Bialek Park was removed early in the 20th Century.

Lisa Collum and her two young daughters were trapped on the third floor by the fire and perished despite heroic attempts to rescue them by the Ipswich fire department, assisted by teams from neighboring towns. There was no emergency egress from the third floor. Five years later the documentary Into the Fire was created about that tragic night. The video is sad but well worth watching. It provides a wake-up call about the importance of maintaining sufficient fire and emergency services in a community.

Historic photos

Photo provided by the Ipswich Museum. The Manning School can be seen on the far left.
Photo provided by the Ipswich Museum. On the right is a house that once faced Central St. It was moved to the next lot on Manning St., and John’s Citgo sits at the original location now. In the background you can see the steele of First Church, which burned in 1965.
Ipswich MA fire engine Hose 2
The Ipswich Museum provided this photo of firemen in front of the Ipswich Fire Station in 1948.
The Selectmen of the town of Ipswich submitted a plan at the 1953 annual Town Meeting to extend the Central Street fire station, which was built at the beginning of the 20th Century. The plan included offices for police, parking for cruisers and ambulances, and a 22′ x 34′ court room for the Clerk of Courts. The estimated cost was $77,000, and it was rejected. 
The late Russell “Buddy” Scahill was eulogized in the 1972 Ipswich Town Report

“A friend,” “Dedicated,” “Always available and cooperative,” “The best friend we ever had…” These words of Fire Captain Harold Wile in 1972 seemed to sum up the unusual career of the late Russell “Buddy” Scahill; unusual not because he was a good fireman, but because he lived to do what he liked most. “Buddy started as a boy dreaming of becoming fire chief someday and he did it, and I call that true success. He was a damned good firefighter.”

Born across the street from the fire station, it must have seemed prophetic when the late chief donned a miniature uniform as fire department mascot in the 1920’s to sit in the lead engine in Ipswich parades. In 1956 Frank O’Malley tapped Mr. Scahill on the shoulder and told him he had been unanimously elected fire chief by the board of selectmen.

Photo courtesy of Buddy Scahill’s granddaughter Karen Stiles.
In the early part of the 20th Century, “Buddy” Scahill was the Fire department mascot. He went on to become Chief Scahill. Photo courtesy of Karen Stiles.

An indication of the esteem in which his fellow townsmen held him came when the town meeting voted Chief Scahill life-time tenure, something the town had not seen fit to confer on any other official. It was an appropriate honor for a man whose life revolved around service to the town for 43 years as a member of the forestry department, the water department, the highway department, and for 31 years, the fire department.


Be it enacted as follows: The tenure of office of Russell L. Scahill, incumbent of the office of chief of the fire department of the town of Ipswich, shall be unlimited.

Approved at Town Meeting, February 11, 1963.

“Buddy” Scahill did what he wanted to do most, and he did it to the best of his ability – at any time of day or night. For little boys who dream impossible dreams, the career of “Buddy “Scahill should provide hope.

(adapted from the 1972 Ipswich Town Report and the Ipswich Chronicle, May 18, 1972)

Ipswich MA Fire Alarm box numbers early 20th Century

Historic photos below are from the Ipswich fire department Facebook page.</a

Old Town Hall on S. Main
The Newptune steamer
Horse-drawn hose truck
Gen. Sutton hose truck
General Sutton at Central St., Sept. 1894

1 thought on “55 Central Street, Central Fire Station (1907)”

  1. Chief scahill was not only an inspiration in this town but an Icon as well… His demeanor, his knowledge, his reach went way beyond the borders of Ipswich.
    I remember as a young patrolman walking the beat downtown, stopping in the firestation and always being welcomed as he pounded a couple Coca Cola’s getting into some wonderful conversations about public safety and what it meant at the time… His reach went far beyond the confines of Ipswich and with his “connections “ helped many a person considering a career in firefighting or Law Enforcement…
    To him, I owe much regarding my career. To this day he is and will always be missed…
    Salute Chief “ Buddy” , and thank you…

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