Laurel Fire Company
By 1770, villagers in York became aware of the necessity to make provisions to protect their property from the ravages of fire. In December of 1770, a meeting was held at the home of the Bauermeister, Baltzar Spangler for the purpose of organizing a fire brigade. Another meeting was held in January of 1771, during which a motion was made to organize a fire brigade. Twenty-four men enrolled themselves as members. By April 3, 1772, the Sun Fire Company of Yorktown was officially organized to protect York “from the effects of fire.”
In August of 1772, a fire engine was purchased by the Sun in Philadelphia. The machine was six feet long, six feet high to the top of the gallery, mounted on four low wheels, and worked by levers, one each side. The entire apparatus was painted red, with the exception of the ornamentations on the two sides of the gallery, which consisted of a painting of a laurel wreath surrounding an image of the rising sun. In 1773 an engine house was erected on North George Street to house the engine.
In 1777-78, while the Continental Congress was in York, they were protected by the Sun Fire Brigade. The Continental Congress, aware of the extra burden placed upon the members of the Sun, passed a resolution for “an appropriation of $50.00, Continental currency, be granted to the fire company of York town which has a laurel wreath design painted on its fire wagon.” As a direct result of this resolution, the Sun Fire Brigade was renamed the Laurel Fire Company, which was incorporated in 1790. In 1842, the first forcing engine ever used in the borough was purchased by the Laurel Fire Company. It was purchased from the Humane Fire Company of Philadelphia. It was brought to Columbia by train, and then drawn by horses to York. The next engine purchased by the Laurel was the “Big Six,” a powerful, double lever engine purchased from John Rogers and formerly owned by the Independent Fire Company of Baltimore, Maryland. Sixty men were required to operate the engine, and during its trial the engine threw a stream of water over the steeple of Christ Lutheran Church on South George Street.
The Laurel’s first steam fire engine arrived by train in York on May 11, 1868. “Old Suz” was originally built for the Paris Exposition by Ives and Son of Baltimore Maryland, and was purchased for $9,000.00. The engine saw its first service at a fire at the Farquhar Agricultural Works on May 27, 1868.
On March 17, 1886, the Laurel began its horse-drawn era when Frank and Harry were brought to the engine house. The Laurel also used its horses for draying and street sprinkling as a means to raise money for the company.
The present Laurel fire station, built in 1877, has become a downtown York landmark, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the oldest continuously operating fire stations in the United States, and has served as a home for hand-drawn, horse-drawn and motorized apparatus. It is the sixth known home of the Laurel Fire Company.