Post from Deborah's blog, May 22, 2014
During the recent sunny weather we had this week, I was able to hit a couple of the firehouses on the list while out and about in the area. I had my long time friend Bill with me, so full credit goes to him here as a patient chauffeur for the first outing.
The first stop was at the firehouse in Pelham. Since I hadn't prepared ahead of time a list of addresses, I was pleased that Bill and I found it almost by accident. We originally had headed out to Harkness Road in Pelham to visit LilacLand, an estate where the grounds are open to the public a few weeks of the year, when the lilacs on the property are in bloom. Lilacs are my favorite flower, so this was nirvana for me, walking around the property with thousands of blossoms giving off those special, almost too sweet scents. Sounds crazy to go just to look at lilacs, but it is worth it. And free to the public so its a great deal!
To get back to finding the Pelham firehouse, when we left Harkness Road, Bill suggested we turn right instead of left to head back towards Amherst center. It was a great suggestion as just a short way down the road, we came upon the Pelham Firehouse. In New England, where building ages are measured in centuries, this one is a newborn, with a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark its opening in June of 2013. Unfortunately, no trucks were outside at the time of our visit. For the first photo shoot of the project, it felt a little undramatic. A quick setup of the shot and it was over. The firehouse has more photos online via their web page. You can get more information and its opening here.
After Pelham, it was off to Amherst and the two firehouses there. The first one we visited was the North Fire Station, located a few miles from the town center. While this building looks pretty modern, it was way ahead of its time when it was officially opened in December of 1975. It has its own gas pump outside, and plenty of large bays for the trucks. There is a great page on the history of the firehouse here, which I thought was pretty interesting. Bonus with this location is that I was able to get photos of a few of the trucks to make my nephew happy.
We then headed out to the Central Station on North Pleasant Street. It has a very short driveway, so I can only imagine that when the trucks come out of the garage they have to start slowly, as about 30 feet later they are on the main drag of the town, usually into heavy traffic. I would have loved to shoot this one with the trucks all visible, but it was the luck of the traffic gods that I was able to get a clear shot of the firehouse.
From Amherst, we were then off to the town of Hadley, with a quick stop to the UMASS Sunwheel on the way. After a quick tour around the stone circle (yes you guessed it, another free thing to do in Western Mass), we headed down Route 9 to East Street and the firehouse there. I wished I had gone into the firehouse itself, as I belatedly realized the next day that the Chief, whom I haven't met, Mike Spankenbel, was "kin" to me after he married my cousin Jessie. Next time I will have to stop in and introduce myself. The East Street firehouse is also fairly new by New England standards, being built in 1996.
After the Hadley firehouse, we stopped along the back roads to take photos of the Connecticut River along the dike. Yes, you guessed it, another free thing to do in Western Mass. There is a very small parking area along the "elbow" of North Lane, where you can park and walk along the dike a little ways on the river line. The water was beautiful that day.
Later on in the evening, I headed over to the town of Easthampton to self-indulge in pizza and a movie, and along the way visited the firehouse there. The firehouse is located on Payson Avenue, which I had to bypass a couple of times as I kept thinking it was still at its old location on Union Street.
After a little aggravation on my end, I spotted the large radio tower on Payson, and thought "Bingo!" it must be on Payson Ave. Luckily it was, as I was about ready to be on the receiving end of some road rage after slowing down and speeding up Union Street a couple of times in both directions. A cool notation here-the firehouse bell from the original location is outside this firehouse. It is nice to know that someone preserved the history.
All in all, it was a long day of traveling in a small part of Hampshire County, with the additional stops we made besides the firehouses. It was a nice start to the project! Stay tuned for more next week, as the rest of the week the forecast isn't looking optimal for photo shooting.
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Deborah Kowal is a life-long resident of Western Mass, currently adjunct faculty teaching psychology at American International College in Springfield, and as a Security Specialist at Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton. Annual participant of local Relay for Life event as a member of Team Northampton Firefighters, writer and photography enthusiast, local runner and avid reader.
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