In 1873 Gainesville incorporated, one of the first acts of the City government was to form a Fire Committee for the to “fireplaces, stoves, and buildings to make recommendations for eliminating fire hazards.” With no fire department, the City Council authorized the Mayor to provide three ladders and necessary hooks for each side of the square. Two years later, the City contracted with “Cravens and Carpenter” to make and paint two fire ladders at the cost of $8.75.
In 1882 the original fire department purchased the first bell. It was removed from the original station to the new combination City Hall/Fire Station/Jail.
In 1884, the first fire station combined with City Hall and Jail known as a Calaboose) was constructed for $7,424 It was originally a two-story building located where the current Morton Museum is housed at 210 S. Dixon St. Each wagon belonged to a different fire company, and three companies were formed. Red Jacket Hook & Ladder Co., Rescue Hose Co. 1, and Alert Hose Co. #2. The insignias for the fire companies are still inscribed on the building, including above the archways.
In 1885 the Gainesville Fire Department was officially formed would remain in this station until 1918 when the first dedicated fire station was constructed.
In 1894 the City of Gainesville Alderman purchased a lot beside the original station at the corner of Pecan Street and Rusk Street for the purposes of planning to build a new and dedicated fire station. In 1906, City Council authorized the fire department to ring the bell from the bell tower at 9 PM each night as a curfew signal. In 1909, a new fire bell was purchased to replace the original bell. R.H. Tumage was paid $20 to hang the fire bell December, 1909.
In 1911 G.S. McCutchen was employed by GF. McCutchen’s first fire was a house on North Taylor Street. He was known for responding in the heavy horse-drawn wagon at “break-neck” speed. McCutchen later recalled that this fire was memorable due to his “two-wheel 90 degree” turn from Broadway to Taylor Street and two volunteer fire fighters “catching on” to the wagon as McCutchen executed the turn.
By 1914, the use of horses and hose carts were beginning to be replaced by motorization. In 1914, the first automated fire truck was purchased by the City at the cost of $3,450. To help defray the cost, three horses and a wagon were sold for $362.50. It wasn’t until 1918 that a bid for $14,000 was accepted for the new dedicated fire station built at 115 E. Pecan Street at the corner of Pecan and Rusk. This station was named “Central Fire Station” and would retain that name for more than 80 years.
1918, the new fire station and city jail (calaboose) was completed a the corner of Rusk and Pecan Street at a total cost of $15,230. The beautiful two-story building was equipped with two firepoles that the firefighters used to quickly slide from the second story living area to the bays where the fire horse-hose carts, and later fire trucks, were housed. In 1920, there was a request for two additional motorized fire apparatus. GFD appeared in Fire and Water Engineering magazine for the purchase of two Graham-Northern single tank combination chemical and hose cars, which increased efficiency. The equipment consisted of a 100 ft. body, a 40 gallon copper tank, and a complement of firefighting tools. The cost was $6,700.
By 1922, GFD was completely motorized. The horse drawn apparatus were disposed of and the remaining horses were sold. Stories were passed down by generations of firefighters that after being sold, the horses would continue to bolt and run for a fire when the alarm was sounded. With motorization in general being a new concern for the city, the Fire Department was instructed by City Council that year to not drive over 20 miles per hour on the city streets for any purpose. Fire Chief George Ackley reported we answered 45 calls in 1922 and saved more than $100,000 in property.
In 1923, the Fire Chief reported to council that the bell on the Central Fire Station was out of commission and could not be used. The FD recommended the bell be moved from the old fire station to the new station and be equipped for ringing with a rope. (The holes for the bell ringing ropes are still in the floor upstairs today). The bell was re-located.
In 1928, Gainesville Fire Department purchased a 1929 500 GPM – Gallons Per Minute- Seagraves Pumper. During the Great Depression, the production of fire apparatus was halted in most areas. The City Council authorized the expenditure of $1,000 for a local resident to rebuild a Pierce Arrow automobile into an emergency fire truck. GFD used the truck for 10 years.
In 1934, the S.H. Kress Store, located at the corner of California and Commerce St. caught fire. The second story merchandise stockroom was gutted and the first story was damaged by heat, smoke and water. All of the merchandise stored in the basement of the building was damaged by water. A youth discovered the flames at about the same time as Traffic Officer Harvey Olmon, who passed the building as it burst into flames. He fired his revolver several times into the air to spread the alarm. Members of the Gainesville Fire.
In 1936, the Gainesville Jr. High School burned. The fire was noticed just hours after a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meeting, which strongly called for a new building.
By 1942, discussions were being held in fire company meetings concerning the need for a Ladder truck for the city. An explosion and fire disaster in Marietta, OK enhanced this need as Gainesville Fire Department responded as mutual aid.
In 1945, two new fire trucks were authorized by the City Council; A 65’ Aerial Ladder with 500 GPM Pump & a 750 GPM American LaFrance Pumper.
The years between the new Station 3 being built in 1918 through the late 1940’s were revolutionary for the fire service in Gainesville through motorization. As the city grew and fires became more common, the Gainesville City Council provided the buildings and fire apparatus necessary for Gainesville Fire Department to keep up with the growth and to provide for the safety of our citizens.
The Station served for over 100 years.