Royal Fire Company
Due to the rapid growth of the western end of York City, and the many new industries that were locating along the railroad corridor, discussions regarding adequate fire protection started as early as 1896. On February 3, 1901, several men met at the home of Congressman Daniel Lafean’s residence to discuss the need for a fire company in the west end and decided to call a meeting of the area’s manufacturers. On February 9, 1901, many of the industrial leaders met in the office of the York Card and Paper Company to lay the groundwork for the new fire company. On February 16, 1901, the company was organized and officers elected, and the company was named the Royal Fire Company. The Royal was officially chartered on March 28, 1901.
In June of 1901, a parcel of land at West Market Street and Carlisle Avenue was purchased for the fire company. On December 9, 1901 ground was broken for a temporary engine house at the rear of the lot. On January 3, 1902, the new engine house was occupied, being built to house “two horses, a combination chemical and hose wagon, and one man.” It initially housed an exercise wagon loaned to them by the Rescue Fire Company, which carried two portable chemical fire extinguishers. On February 7, 1902, a new Halloway combination chemical and hose wagon was placed in service. On February 10, 1902 the company agreed to abide by the provisions of the city ordinances and became a part of the York Fire Department and became the Royal Fire Company No. 6.
The company then began the planning of constructing their permanent home. Architects were hired and instructed to design a station that embodies the best features of fire houses from other cities. It is assumed that the architects were also instructed to design a grand station that the industrial leaders could be proud of.
Ground breaking for the new station was held on November 20, 1902 at 1:00 in the afternoon with a great number of dignitaries and spectators in attendance. It was not until May 16, 1903 until the cornerstone was laid for the new engine house.
On January 4, 1904, a first-size steam fire engine was ordered from the Manchester Locomotive Works of Manchester, New Hampshire at a cost of $6,200.00. The new steamer arrived in York in March, and was tested on April 2, 1904. Before being accepted by the company, the steamer was called to service on April 6, 1904 to help combat a large fire at the York Carriage Works.
On Saturday, October 29, 1904, a dedication ceremony was held for the new station with a parade and public reception. The building contained many features which caused it to be known as one of the finest engine houses in the country. Unfortunately, the extravagance of the building placed the company in great debt, from which it was unable to fully recover until 1934.
The Royal housed seven horses at the height of the horse-drawn era. Baron and Czar were used to pull the chemical wagon. Prince, Sultan and Count were used to pull the steamer. Count would also be used to pull the ambulance, and Sultan was his alternate for the ambulance detail. Duke and King were used strictly to pull the street sprinkler, and were never trained for service as fire horses. Visitors to the station will find an eighth stall, marked for a horse named Earl. This horse was never purchased for the company, but a stall was installed in case an eighth horse would ever be needed.
The first piece of motorized apparatus of the Royal was a Martin Type “A” combination chemical and hose wagon which was contracted for purchase from the Martian Carriage Works of West York for $4,700.00 on October 4, 1915.
On January 1, 1979, the Royal fire station was closed and its apparatus placed in reserve status. The building was later used by the City’s Electrical Bureau. The Fire Museum of York County rented the second and third floors for use as a museum site, and eventually the museum purchased the entire building from the city. The York County Fire Museum, now a part of the York County Heritage Trust, occupies the building.
Although the Royal Fire Company still maintains a charter as an active fire company, there are currently no members of the Royal in active firefighting service.