Union Fire Company
In late 1854, Dr. Alexander Small spoke to a number of citizens of the second, third and seventh wards, and at his suggestion, a number of men met in his office at the Small & Smyser Iron Works to discuss organizing a fire company to protect the northern wards of York, in conjunction with the existing fire companies already operating in York. At the meeting, it was learned that the sum of $865.50 had already been collected for the purpose of purchasing a fire engine for the safety of the district.
In August of 1855 a draft charter and by-laws were drawn up, and the first officers of the company were elected. In December of 1855, the Union Fire Company was officially chartered.
The company’s first station was built in 1855 at 108 North George Street, and a suction engine was purchased from Rogers and Son of Baltimore, Maryland for $1,200.00.
In December of 1868, the company decided to purchase a steam fire engine, and a committee was appointed to look into the purchase and to solicit subscriptions to make the purchase. A third class steam fire engine was purchased from Jucket and Freeman of Massachusetts for $3,200.00.
Having outgrown their quarters at 108 North George Street, the Union selected a property at 141 North George Street for their new home. A three story brick fire station with bell tower was erected at a cost of $4,250.00 for the land and $5,000.00 for the building. The new station was completed on April 1, 1884.
On February 8, 1889, the Union steamer was responding to Box 4, then located at Philadelphia & Queen Streets, when the Junket & Freeman engine overturned and was destroyed. It was immediately decided to purchase a new engine, and a new LaFrance steamer was purchased on March 18, 1889 and delivered on August 2, 1889. It was found that the two-horse hitch was barely able to handle the new engine, so a three-way hitch was applied to the new steamer.
The Union Fire Company has the distinction of being the only York company to purchase and operate white apparatus. All other companies operated the traditional red fire apparatus. The last rig purchased for the Union was a 1958 American LaFrance 900 series pumper, which was white with red fenders. This engine is currently in the collection of the York County Fire Museum.
In early 1970, the fire station was judged unsafe for further use and the apparatus was relocated to the Lincoln fire station. The old station was demolished as part of a downtown revitalization project. In 1973, a new three-bay station was built at 267-273 West Market Street to house both the Vigilant and Union companies.
On January 1, 1980, the career firefighters’ worked schedule was reduced to a 42 hour work week, creating a four platoon system in the department. As a result, Truck B, a 1976 Mack aerial ladder truck, was placed out of service. This would be the last unit to be in service as a Union fire company apparatus.