Northampton Fires & Firefighting:
A Walking Tour by Josh Shanley
A Walking Tour by Josh Shanley
Walk through downtown with retired Northampton firefighter Josh Shanley as he describes the history of fires and firefighting in Northampton, the topic of his latest book. He will describe the fire history that shaped Northampton’s architecture and tell the story of the City’s fire department --
from its establishment in 1857, when hose wagons and hand tubs were pulled by volunteers, to today when Northampton Fire Rescue responds to more than three thousand calls each year.
Limited to 18.
Sliding scale admission: $15 - $25
From Northampton Fires and Firefighting, p. 106:
The First National Bank at the intersection of Main and King Streets was destroyed by fire on January 17, 1895. The first floor of the building was also home to the offices of the American Express Company. On the second floor were the law offices of Hammond and Mason. There was a print shop on the top floor. The fire started in the wall on the first floor. The loss was estimated at $20,000. The Silsby steamer can be seen cranking away and producing a plume of black smoke.
Throughout the early history of Northampton, fire was a constant threat. Although the first century had its share of fires, the earliest fire protection equipment in Northampton was purchased in 1792. It consisted of buckets, hooks and ladders that were grabbed by anyone in town available to assist and within earshot of the dreaded cry of "fire." After a spate of arson fires in the mid-1800s, the first official fire department was established in Northampton in 1857. By 1870, the Northampton Fire Department included four companies --in downtown, Florence, Bay State, and Leeds. Each company had its own hose wagons and hand tubs pulled by volunteers. These were eventually replaced by horse-drawn steam-powered engines, and finally motorized apparatus.
Josh Shanley was a firefighter-paramedic in both Amherst and Northampton for a combined 25 years, retiring in 2021. He is an adjunct faculty member at Purdue University’s Global Fire Science and Emergency Management Program and works for the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. His first book, The Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936, was published in 2021.
Images from the book Northampton Fires and Firefighting by Joshua Shanley:
Header image: Onlookers examine the ruins of the Kirkland Block (Main Street, Northampton) after the fire of April 7, 1895. The Kirkland Block was replaced with the Lambie Block, better known as the Nonotuck Savings Bank building.
The First National Bank at the intersection of Main and King Streets was destroyed by fire on January 17, 1895.
Photograph of the Edwards Church, corner of Old South and Main Streets, Northampton. The church was destroyed by fire after the Hunt building next door went up in flames on May 19, 1870. The church was rebuilt at its current location at Main and State Streets.
Built in 1811-12, the First Congregational Church on Main Street was totally destroyed by fire on June 27, 1876.
All photographs shown here are from the collection of Historic Northampton.