The yellow building at Lords Square between Dunkin Donuts and the laundromat was constructed between 1865 and 1872. Despite its neglected appearance and the boxy addition on the front it once served as one of the town’s three fire stations, housing engine #2, the Neptune, and the town’s first motorized fire truck, Hose 2.
The current fire station on Central Street was built in 1907. Cabinetmaker Joseph Bakula purchased the Lords Square fire department building in 1930 and used it for several years as his shop. His stepdaughter Helen Ziolkowski lived upstairs and operated her antique store Calico Collectibles in the building for 25 years. The building was sold to the current owners in order to help pay for her nursing home care. Mrs. Ziolkowski died in 2013 at the age of 98.
The other two companies were on Warren Street and in the Candlewood neighborhood. The fire station had a bell tower in the front and a tall hose-drying tower in the rear.
The “Neptune” was the town’s “hand tub” fire engine and was housed in this building. Neptune #8 was built in 1878 by Button Fire Engine Works and was first owned by the Newburyport Fire Department. In 1889 the Button engine was sold to Ipswich and was re-numbered Neptune #2.
On January 13, 1894 the commercial block of Central Street went up in flames. The Torrent was the first hand pump engine to arrive, but the tub was frozen. The volunteer firemen from the Lords Square station were able to assist the other two pumpers when they arrived, but every building from the Tyler block to Wilde’s Court was lost in the fire. On April 17 that year the Damon block at the other end of Market Street burned down. A hastily called special town meeting approved funding to install a water system after years of opposition to the expenditure.
The volunteer fire departments were very competitive with each other. It took 20 men to operate the pump on the Neptune. Watch a video of the Neptune being operated at a recent Newbury Firemen’s Muster
In 1899 the Neptune Veteran Firemen’s association of Newburyport purchased Neptune #2 back from Ipswich and began competing in hand engine musters.
Since that time the Neptune has competed in over 500 musters and has won over $40,000! The town of Ipswich replaced it with the horse-drawn Masconomet steam engine, purchased for $3200.00. In 1912 members of Hose Company #2 raised money with suppers and minstrel shows to buy a General Motors truck with two chemical tanks and a large supply of hose. Edward Smith was the driver and went on to become fire chief, serving with the company for 50 years. The town’s first ladder truck was purchased in 1933.
Read a history of the Fire Department, written in 1888 (the year before the Neptune was purchased).
“The Masconomet Steamer was the last word in firefighting in 1900.” wrote William J. Barton. His father William E. Barton was captain of the Fire Department at the turn of the 20th Century. “The price tag put on it by the famous LaFrance Company was $3250. Twenty-one feet long and six feet wide, it was nine feet high and weighed 6500 pounds. The Masconomet had a capacity of 650 gallons of water, or about 20 gallons a minute. It generated 30 pounds of steam in 3 1/4 minutes, and was fully nickle-plated. I remember the first tryout of the Masconomet Steamer. The suction was placed in the well of the old town pump in the center of Market Square. They played over 1500 feet of hose up over North Main Street and shot a stream of 165 feet over the steeple. I was right there on hand to see it.”