Incident reports for the year 1956 have been lost, but the following items were listed as the equipment owned and used by the Lawrence Road Fire Co. in 1956: two Maxim 750-gallon pumpers; 2,300 feet of 2.5-inch hose; 850 feet of 1.5-inch hose; 600 feet of booster hose; two 24-foot ladders; two 13-foot ladders; two hose clamps; two ceiling hooks; four 5-gallon Indian tanks; two Val packs; one extra Van tank; two all purpose masks; two Cemox masks; 5-gallons of foam; 5-gallons of wet water; five extinguishers; two axes; two wrecking bars; and one wire cutter.
January 6, 1956
On Friday, January 6, 1956, the members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. were dispatched to help cover Trenton while city firefighters were committed at a general alarm blaze on East State Street. The Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published the following account of the fire on January 8, 1956: “Estimates of losses range up to $500,000 in the Friday night fire that destroyed the interior of the building of Morlees Inc. at 20 East State Street. The general alarm fire that started in the cellar of the narrow, three-story building raged out of control 90 minutes. Flames at one time shot 35 feet high over its roof. Three adjacent stores, including Dunham’s, were almost set ablaze and suffered damage due to smoke and water. At least 12 firemen were hurt of partly overcome by dense smoke. About 150 smoke eaters rolled to the scene with the city’s 10 engines and four ladder trucks. Max Yedid, owner of the Morlee shop, discovered the blaze in the cellar at 7:30 p.m. Yedid opened the basement door and smoke rolled out. Assistant Chief George Weigand arrived in a minute with Engines 1, 2 and 10 and Truck 4. Firemen ran a one-inch line and started down the cellar steps of the 185-foot-long store. Weigand saw flames mushrooming midway back in the big basement. ‘Give us a big line,’ went his call back to the street. Others hustled in a 2.5-inch line. Choking smoke thicker than fog filled the cellar. The fire, heat, and smoke was too much. The men abandoned a hundred-foot length of hose and retreated. Seven minutes later the second alarm brought Deputy Chief Chris Reilly and more companies. Three more calls at five and 10 minute intervals brought the entire department. Twelve volunteer fire companies including engines from Morrisville clanged into the city. They took up previously arranged stations in he vacated firehouses, ready to answer other city alarms....”
February 27, 1956
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, February 27, 1956, include: “A letter was received from Lawrence Township First Aid Squad thanking us for our cooperation in the past year for the use of the building and siren. Check for $50 was enclosed. Letter was received from Mrs. Iona Myers of Fackler Road, where the oil burner exploded. She was sending a letter to the Trenton Times praising the fine work that the firemen did in keeping her fire losses to a minimum.”
March 14, 1956
Wednesday, March 14, 1956, proved to be one of the busiest days in the history of Trenton Fire Department as two general alarm blazes occurred within a few hours of one another. The fires killed three people and destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral and heavily damaged Jefferson Elementary School. Lawrence Road firefighters helped Trenton firefighters battle both blazes. Actually, Lawrence Road firefighters discovered the fire at the Jefferson school while returning from the scene of the cathedral blaze. According to a claim filed with the fire company’s insurance company, Lawrence Road firefighters Warren Groover Sr., Thomas Hawthorne, William V. Carroll Jr., and Clinton W. Groover all were injured on March 14, 1956.
The Trenton Evening Times documented the fire at St. Mary’s Cathedral with several stories and dramatic photographs that appeared on the front page and several inside pages of that night’s newspaper. The Times reported: “Monsignor Richard T. Crean and two housekeepers were burned to death early today as a five-alarm fire destroyed the 85-year-old St. Mary’s Cathedral and the adjoining chancery-rectory building. Crean was trapped in flames on the third floor of the rectory where he had raced to rouse priests asleep on that floor. Three priests were injured in the fire, which brought more than 250 city and suburban firemen to the scene. Three of the trapped priests were rescued in dramatic fashion. Father Joseph O’Connor jumped into a fire net from the blazing third floor of the rectory. Father Francis McGuiness crawled from his flaming bedroom to the roof of the rectory. From there he made his way to the roof of the cathedral. As the fire drew closer, he stepped to the edge of the roof. For a time it appeared that he would have to jump to the ground. However, firemen were able to get an aerial ladder into position in time. Father Peter J. Mooney was rescued by firemen as he clung to a radio antenna outside his fourth-floor room. Grasping the cooper wire, he hung for several minutes before firemen could raise a ladder to save him. As Father Mooney clung to the wire, flames leaping from a window scorched his legs.
“A Bell telephone operator got the first call about the fire at 4:30 a.m. A man calling from a coin box at Perry and Warren streets shouted: ‘Flames are pouring out of St. Marys rectory windows!’ The operator immediately relayed the alarm to police and fire dispatcher Walter Parker. The first alarm was sounded at 4:31 a.m. This was quickly followed by the second alarm at 4:33 a.m., the third at 4:34 a.m., and the general alarm at 4:50 a.m. At 4:52 a.m., Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Dovgala put out a call for all volunteer companies from suburban areas. The fire, which started in the rectory, sent flames billowing high above the four-story brownstone rectory-chancery, which adjoins the cathedral, located at North Warren and Bank streets. The blaze spread quickly into the cathedral and for a time endangered the Cathedral High School and St. Mary’s Grammar School buildings on Chancery Lane at the rear of the church. Priests said Monsignor Crean apparently gave his life to help save others. Asleep on the second floor when the fire was discovered, the Monsignor raced upstairs shouting out the alarm. As a result he was trapped when the flames engulfed that floor.
“All 15 city companies and all available emergency units were at the scene. Hydrants in a four block area were tapped for water. Torrents of water poured in a steady stream from the three front doors of the cathedral. Fire hoses appeared to be as thick as spaghetti on the four streets surrounding the fire – North Warren, Bank, Chancery, and West Hanover. Two volunteer firemen were injured while fighting the blaze at St. Mary’s. Clinton Groover, 23, of 11 Alcazar Avenue, a member of the Lawrence Road Fire Co., stepped on a nail at the scene. He was given a tetanus antitoxin shot at McKinley Hospital. Ron McConnell, 32, a Hamilton Township volunteer, suffered a possible fractured ankle when he stepped on a hose. He was treated at St. Francis Hospital…”
The Trenton Evening Times, with another front page story and several photographs, also documented the fire at Jefferson Elementary School in the paper of Wednesday, March 14, 1956: “Some 700 pupils of the Jefferson Elementary School were led to safety today as the second general alarm fire of the day swept the three-story structure at Brunswick Avenue and Southard Street. The roof and third floor of the Brunswick Avenue wing of the school were destroyed by fire. Tons of water poured into the structure made the lower floors unusable. Part of the roof of the school’s newer wing, to the rear, was also destroyed. The blaze broke out on the third floor shortly before 9 a.m., probably in a janitor’s storage closet, according to Assistant Fire Chief George Weigand. It spread quickly to the roof and then to fourth, fifth and sixth grade classrooms on the third floor. Two teachers apparently were the first to discover the blaze. The school secretary noticed smoke and flames in the vicinity of the third floor teachers’ room at about the same time. The school nurse phoned an alarm to the city electrical bureau. The word was spread throughout the school and all rooms were evacuated with a minimum of difficulty. The children had to go out into the drenching rain without coats. Most of the children were taken immediately to Junior High School No. 1 at Princeton Avenue and Southard Street. After the children were evacuated, three male teachers attempted to douse the spreading blaze with hand fire extinguishers.
“Hardly any Trenton firemen were in their firehouses when the alarm was received. About nine volunteer fire companies and two Trenton companies responded to the first alarm. The alarm was given first through the fire department radio system. Volunteers still at the scene of the St. Mary’s cathedral fire and at fire headquarters received the word and sped to the scene, along with two aerial ladder trucks of the city fire department. Later, all available Trenton fire personnel and some additional equipment were called in by means of the fire department’s regular bell alarm system. The flames were shooting through the roof of the old wing when the first firemen arrived on the scene shortly after 9 a.m. At 9:25 a.m., the fire was still raging out of control. The roof of the old wing caved in at about that time, endangering firemen who had ascended aerial ladders. However, only two firemen were injured while fighting the blaze. The men, both from Morrisville, were hurt when a beam collapsed as they were holding a fire hose inside the school. By 9:45 a.m. the fire was under control, although flames were still licking at the roof. Firemen remained at the scene for hours, pouring water on smoldering embers. Police and fire officials said the cause of the blaze could not be determined immediately...”
A sidebar to both fires also ran in the Trenton Evening Times on Wednesday, March 14, 1956, reporting on all the volunteer fire companies that assisted city firefighters. The newspaper reported: “Seventeen fire companies from neighboring communities moved into Trenton this morning to help battle the fires that destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral and damaged Jefferson School. Seven of them were on the fire line; the other ten occupied the city’s firehouses vacated by city firemen. Some, called in on the early morning Cathedral fire, started back to their home bases only to be recalled at 9 a.m. when the Jefferson School blaze broke out. At one or both fires today were the Bristol, Princeton, Groveville, Hamilton, Lawrence Road, Mercerville and Colonial fire companies. On standby alert at the firehouses were companies from the state hospital, Yardley, Lawrenceville, Nottingham, Pennington, U.S. Steel, Slackwood, Fairless Hills, and Newtown.”
April 11, 1956
The following letter, dated April 11, 1956, was received from Sido L. Ridolfi, state senator from Mercer County: “Gentlemen – On March 28, 1956, it was my privilege to introduce in the New Jersey State Senate a resolution commending, among others, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. for the outstanding service which your organization rendered in connection with the fire that destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral on March 14, 1956. At the same time, I also had the opportunity to inform the Senate and citizens of our state of your equally meritorious service on the occasion of the flood that occurred on August 19, 1955. Feeling that you might be interested in having a copy of the resolution, I am enclosing a copy which you may retain in your files and which appears to be appropriate for framing if you so desire.” The resolution reads:“Whereas, on the morning of March 14, 1956, a disastrous fire occurred in the City of Trenton which destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral and the adjoining rectory and chancellery, and, while the fire was still in progress, another serious fire occurred at the Jefferson School in said city; and whereas, the Hopewell Fire Co., Groveville Fire Co., Colonial Fire Co., White Horse Fire Co., Lawrenceville Fire Co., Slackwood Fire Co., Pennington Fire Co., Prospect Heights Fire Co., DeCou Hose Co., Hamilton Fire Co., Mercerville Fire Co., Rusling Hose Co., Hightstown Fire Co., Princeton Fire Co., Enterprise Fire Co., West Trenton Fire Co., Pennington Road Fire Co., Lawrence Road Fire Co., Nottingham Fire Co., Princeton Junction Fire Co., Union Fire Co., and West Windsor Fire Co. responded to the alarms and rendered great assistance in bringing these fires under control; and whereas, except for assistance rendered by the volunteer fire companies to the Fire Department of the City of Trenton in combating these fires, great difficulty would have been experienced in bringing them under control; and whereas, it is realized that the members of the volunteer fire companies contribute their services to their own and other communities at the risk of life and limb and from purely public-spirited motives; therefore, be it resolved, that the Senate of the State of New Jersey does hereby express its appreciation and sincere thanks to the members of the volunteer fire companies named above, for services rendered to the public in assisting in extinguishing these fires; and be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution, signed by the president of the Senate and attested by its secretary, be forwarded to each of the above named fire companies…”
April 30, 1956
On Monday, April 30, 1956, Lawrence Road firefighters responded to a multi-vehicle accident on Lawrence Road. The Trenton Evening Times ran a brief on the crash on the front page of the newspaper on Tuesday, May 1, 1956, with the following description: “Three vehicles were damaged and an automobile with three occupants upset in a crash late yesterday on the Lawrenceville Road at Fairfield Avenue. In the sedan that rolled over twice and landed on its top were two women and a 3-year-old boy. The women and the child were treated at Mercer Hospital for bruises. They were later released...”
May 14, 1956
Lawrence Road firefighters were called out to battle a house fire in the early morning hours of Monday, May 14, 1956. The Trenton Evening Times printed the following account of the fire in that night’s edition: “Fire gutted the home oh John Wyrick, owner of the Crossing Inn in Lawrence Township, early this morning. Wyrick and his wife were tending bar at the tavern when Thomas Hendricks, a parking lot attendant there, discovered the fire across the street at 355 Eggerts Crossing Road. The Lawrenceville, Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies responded to the alarm at 1:48 a.m. They battled the blaze for two hours before extinguishing it. With the Wyricks at their bar, no one was home when the fire broke out. The blaze ruined the interior of the house.”
May 17, 1956
News about Lawrence Road’s fire radio system was reported in the Trenton Evening Times on Thursday, May 17, 1956, in an article about the preceding night’s township committee meeting: “The three volunteer fire companies – Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville – may shortly have two-way radio hookups. Committeeman Lloyd Carver asked that bids be accepted at the next meeting on June 6. He estimated the cost will be around $7,000. Carver added that an attempt will be made to have state Civil Defense foot half the bill.”
May 17, 1956
On Thursday, May 17, 1956, Lawrence Road firefighters apparently responded to two structure fires. One of the blazes were documented in the Trenton Evening Times on Friday, May 18, 1956, with the following: “The door bell rang and attorney Edmund Z. Potkay, 31, of 1708 Lawrence Road got up from the dinner table at 5:05 p.m. yesterday to answer. ‘Your garage is on fire,’ exclaimed a motorist who had seen the flames in back of Potkay’s house. Mrs. Frances Potkay telephoned an alarm to Lawrence Township police. In a short time, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was on the job and put out the blaze. The flames damaged a storage section of the garage and its rear wall and part of the roof. Potkay, helped by others, attempted to hold the flames in check until the firemen arrived. Sparks from a fire in a metal incinerator set the garage ablaze, police reported.”
June 23, 1956
On Saturday, June 23, 1956, Lawrence Road firefighters responded to a horrendous, fatal motor vehicle accident in which a car was wrapped around a utility pole. The Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published the following report on the crash on the front page on June 24, 1956: “One man was burned to death and three other persons were injured last night when a 1956 sedan smashed into a pole after sideswiping another car on the Lawrenceville Road near Carter Road. The dead man, the driver of the car that struck the pole and then burst into flames, was burned beyond recognition. (He was later identified as Edward Streeter, 29, a bartender from 41 Forrest Avenue). Gerald Hutchinson, 24, of 733 Pilgrim Avenue, was pulled from the burning car by Patrolman Nicholas Loveless of Lawrence Township Police. He suffered head injuries and underwent emergency surgery after being hurried to McKinley Hospital. The others injured where in the car that was sideswiped. They suffered possible arm and leg fractures and were admitted to St. Francis Hospital after emergency treatment.
“The car in which the driver was burned to death was heading south on Lawrenceville Road at a terrific rate of speed. One resident along the road told police the car sounded as if it were jet propelled. He went to the telephone to report the high speed when he heard the sideswipe and then the fatal crash into the pole. The car that burned apparently went out of control just before it crossed the bridge over the Shipetaukin Creek. It skidded a distance of 150 and then sheared off the pole. The impact with the pole set the car on fire. In a matter of minutes it was destroyed. Flames from the burning car set the service pole on fire, burning a Bell Telephone cable and Public Service wires carrying 4,000 volts. Both phone and electric service in the area were disrupted. Lawrence Township Chief Joseph Stonicker and County Detective Michael LaRossa led the investigation at the scene.”
July 23, 1956
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, July 23, 1956, include: “Chief Donald Baker reported radios are to be installed by mid-September; wave length will be the same as Hamilton Township. Motion was made and passed by a vote of 21 to 4 to purchase the new siren.”
October 8, 1956
During the meeting held on Monday, October 8, 1956, “Chief Donald Baker reported radios were installed. Speakers will be installed by the pump compartments in the near future. Town hall’s number is KEF-543. A new soft suction was purchased and put in the small truck. Capt. John Dempster was voted in as an Honorary Member.”
December 16, 1956
A general alarm fire broke out in the Sunday school building of the First Methodist Church at 15 South Broad Street in Trenton in the early hours of Sunday, December 16, 1956. Lawrence Road firefighters responded to help cover Trenton during the fire. But while the First Methodist Church fire was still burning out of control, another blaze broke out in a church on North Clinton Avenue. With all city companies committed and more manpower needed, Lawrence Road firefighters were called to the scene of the First Methodist Church inferno. Both church fires were incendiary in nature. The remains of bottles smelling of gasoline were later found at both scenes. The arsonist responsible for setting both blazes also tried to burn two other city churches that night, but those fires burned themselves out with only minor damage. The Trenton Evening Times documented the fires with this account published on Monday, December 17, 1956:
“...Taxi-driver Thomas Agabiti discovered the blaze at the First Methodist Church and turned in the box call. Agabiti told detectives the flames were then shooting out of the roof of the doomed Sunday school building. Deputy Chief Frank Apgar was on the scene first in response to the cab driver’s alarm at 4:29 a.m. The second alarm at 4:32 a.m. brought Deputy Chief John Clark and additional companies. The third alarm at 4:35 a.m. sent Assistant Chief Weigand to the scene. Weigand sent the fourth and fifth alarms at 4:47 a.m. and 5:03 a.m. and emptied all city fire houses. Suburban companies rolled into the city when the third alarm was transmitted. Jets of flame 25 feet long were shooting out of every window of the two-story Sunday school building in the rear of the 185-year-old church. Deputy Chief Apgar said the blaze lit the sky overhead ‘as brightly as a neon sign.’ He said he glimpsed the location of the fire as he ran up an alleyway from East Front Street.
“Hoselines were run into the arched entrance of the granite church. Firemen advanced through the church sanctuary toward the blazing Sunday school section. It was an inferno, blasting scorching-hot smoke throughout the church. Water cascaded into the church from the lines of firemen who went up an aerial ladder to adjacent rooftops, from the rear and sides of the church and inside as well. Dr. J. Stanley Wagg, pastor of the church, was in the sanctuary seeking to retrieve altar vestments when the roof of the Sunday school building collapsed with a loud crash. The clergyman and firemen with him in the smoke-filled church pressed against a wall, not knowing whether or not the main roof was coming down too. Five firemen from Engine 3 were almost caught beneath the tons of debris in the Sunday school building. They scrambled for safety. Fireman William Stoker Jr. lost his helmet. Nearby, other firemen thought their comrades were buried. Hoselines were trained on the rubble and other firemen pulled at the timbers with their pikes. Then the cries of the sought men were heard from beyond the wreckage, telling that they were all right.
“An hour of hard fighting brought the fire under control except for flickering blazes located above the oak ceiling 50 feet above the sanctuary pews. Smoke and heat from the adjacent fire seared parts of the sanctuary. Water was ankle deed on the section of carpeted floor around the curved altar platform. Irreplaceable Italian glass was broken in a huge window separation between the sanctuary and the Sunday school building. Four firemen were hurt in fighting the First Methodist Church blaze. Hardly a minute had elapsed between the third alarm for the First Methodist Church and the dispatch for a fire in the kitchen at the back of the Church of the First Born Living God at 392-94 North Clinton Avenue. Engine 4 rolled up by itself and radioed for help upon arrival. Truck 3 and Engine 9 had just shifted to fire headquarters on Perry Street and were sent to the East Trenton fire. The fire was put out within a short time. While volunteers of the Morrisville, Rusling Hose and Lawrence Road fire companies were shoulder-to-shoulder with city firemen at the First Methodist Church, other firemen were in Trenton engine houses. The companies covering for the city firemen were the Pennington Road, Enterprise, Colonial, White Horse, Hamilton, Nottingham, Prospect Heights, Slackwood, and DeCou...”
December 19, 1956
On Wednesday, December 19, 1956, a 40-year-old man, Elber Cooper Lucas, was arrested for setting the fires that destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral on March 14, 1956, and damaged the First Methodist Church and three other city churches on December 16, 1956. A Mercer County grand jury indicted Lucas on murder and arson charges on Tuesday, November 26, 1957.
December 28, 1956
The following letter, dated December 28, 1956, was received from Rev. J. Stanley Wagg of the First Methodist Church of Trenton: “Dear Chief – Permit me to take this means of expressing the appreciation of the official board, the congregation and especially myself for the outstanding job done by you and you men, along with men and equipment from far and wide, in controlling the fire at our church on Sunday, December 16. Through the combined efforts of such fine men as serve this community what might have been a major catastrophe was confined within our four walls. Surely this was a great satisfaction to you and a service to be recognized and appreciated by all in Trenton and the surrounding area. It is most regrettable that several men were injured and I sincerely hope they were not caused too much suffering and inconvenience. May God abundantly bless each man in the wonderful sacrificial service rendered as a fireman.”
February 24, 1957
On Sunday, February 24, 1957, Lawrence Road firefighters were called out to help battle a house fire located in Ewing on the border with Lawrence. The Trenton Evening Times published the following account of the blaze on Monday, February 25, 1957: “Fire destroyed an abandoned frame house on Eggerts Crossing Road last night as three Ewing Township volunteer fire companies fought a losing battle because of a lack of water. The blaze apparently was caused by a vagrant sleeping in the building . Earl Elder, chief of the Prospect Heights Fire Co., reported there was no electrical current in the house. Ewing police were attempting to locate the owner today. Chief Elder said that volunteers from Prospect Heights, Pennington Road, and West Trenton fire companies pumped nearby wells dry and then laid almost 3,000 feet of hose to another well at the Solfo Paint Co. Trucks also transported water from the 112th Field Artillery Armory.” (Editor’s Note: Although Lawrence Road Fire Co. is not mentioned in the news story, a list of the fire company’s 1957 emergency calls indicates the company was called in to assist.)
June 14, 1957
On Friday, June 14, 1957, Lawrence Road firefighters responded into Trenton to help cover the city during a four-alarm fire. The Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published the following account on June 16, 1957: “The blaze, discovered at 6:24 p.m., gutted the interior of Lee’s Luggage at 114 North Broad Street and the shop of Samel and Sons, jewelers, at 112 North Broad Street. Smoke or water damage was reported in three adjacent stores. Deputy Chief Frank Apgar said the blaze began at the rear of the luggage shop. Flames spread through partitions into the jewelry store and up a stairway to the second floor over the luggage shop. Both first floors were gutted, as was the second floor of Lee’s. Flames 50 feet high were shooting out the back of the stores when Deputy Chief Apgar arrived. Additional alarms were transmitted at 6:33, 6:45 and 6:50. Sweating firemen, working in the heat of the fire and high humidity, battled the blaze with 10 hose lines before it was brought under control. Two firemen suffered minor injuries. Trenton’s mutual assistance system went into effect, summoning suburban firefighters to city engine houses as the third alarm was recorded…”
July 18, 1957
On Thursday, July 18, 1957, Lawrence Road firefighters were called to a fire at Annie’s Diner on Brunswick Pike. A photo of the burning diner appeared in that night’s edition of the Trenton Evening Times, accompanied by the following caption: “Lawrence Township firemen are shown dousing flames that wrecked one end of Annie’s Diner on the east side of the Brunswick Pike next to the W.T. Cowan truck terminal today. Three truckers were talking with owner Guy Ely when the fire broke out in the kitchen, evidently from a grease spillover. The alarm was telephoned by one of the men. While four engines from the Slackwood and Lawrence Road companies were en route to the scene, extinguishers from the truck terminal were played on the fire. But the heat drove back the men using the foam sprayers. Chief James Smith of the Slackwood company took charge of the firefighting.”
October 27, 1957
On Sunday, October 27, 1957, a general alarm heavily damaged several stores, including Hamilton Jewelers, in the heart of Trenton’s business district. Lawrence Road firefighters at first responded to help cover the city’s empty firehouses, but they were then called into the scene as the blaze continued to rage out of control. The Trenton Evening Times documented the fire with a story and dramatic photograph on the front page on Monday, October 28, 1957. The newspaper reported:“More than 200 firemen battled a perilous fire in the main business area last night. The blaze gutted two stores laden with expensive stock at North Broad and Hanover Streets. Out of control until after midnight, the general alarm fire threatened other stores in the city’s second biggest business district. Left today in smoking water-logged ruins are the Hamilton Jewelers at 24 North Broad Street and Norman’s Gift Shop at 22 North Broad Street. Smoke or water damage is reported in the Carlton Clothes Shop at 18-20 North Broad Street, the Neon Bar at 105 East Hanover Street, and in Yard’s Department Store at State and Broad Streets. Smoke also filtered into Bond Clothes at 10 North Broad Street, Lipman’s Jewelers at 14 North Broad Street, and Leroy’s Dress Shop at 16 North Broad Street, where water damage also occurred. Smoke was reported in Neimond’s Dress Shop at 109 East Hanover Street and the Harry Campbell Fur Co. at the same address, and also in Rauch’s Men’s Shop at 111 East Hanover Street. Damage estimates today range up to several hundred thousand dollars. Insurance investigators are working to reach an accurate figure.
“The fire began in the basement of the Hamilton Jewelers and touched off its burglar alarm. Two minutes later, at 9:12 p.m., policemen arriving to investigate saw flames shooting from a vent inside the jewelry store and radioed in the alarm. Deputy Chief Frank Apgar arrived with the first companies. Heat was so intense and smoke so thick that the firemen couldn’t enter the building. Pike poles were used to break out the store’s five plate glass windows to ventilate and lower the heat. The second alarm was struck at 9:22 p.m. In quick succession, dispatchers in the electrical bureau tapped out additional alarms at 9:31 p.m., 9:57 p.m. and the all-hands ‘5-5’ general alarm at 10:13 p.m. Four ladder trucks and 10 engines were on the scene. Volunteers from 19 suburban companies from Mercer and Bucks counties rolled into Trenton on the third alarm under the city’s mutual aid plan. Even as the smoke-eaters battled to confine the blaze to the Hamilton Jewelers, the flames spread through the cellar of the adjoining Norman’s.
“Fire ate its way upward through partitions and spread into the upper floors. The blaze soon erupted with a whooshing charge of smoke out the first-floor front of Norman’s. Firemen lugged hoses up aerial ladders to reach the roof of the four-story building and pour water down onto the jewelry shop blaze. Valuable gems and other items were locked away for the weekend in two vaults in the basement of the Hamilton Jewelers. Much of its stock in wall and floor cases burned with the window displays. It was the second destruction of a Hamilton Jewelers store in less than 10 years. Their shop on South Broad Street near Lafayette Street was wrecked in a 1948 blaze that started in the then adjacent New Jersey Floor Covering Co. Hamilton Jewelers owner Irving Siegel of Kensington Avenue got out of a sickbed with trousers pulled hastily over pajamas and went to the scene of the blaze with his wife and son. Norman’s display of gifts and cars were wrecked. Parts of the floors in both stores collapsed into the water-filled cellars.
“Patrons left the Neon Bar to join a throng of spectators on sidewalks near the scene of the blaze. Department floodlight trucks illuminated the scene all night. Police set up detours to route auto and bus traffic off Broad Street and Hanover Street. Volunteers from Morrisville’s Capitol View, Lawrence Road and Prospect Heights companies were pulled into service with city firefighters at 10:23 p.m. Other volunteers were in city houses with their apparatus as a standby precaution. Liberty Rescue Squad also reported to the scene. Deputy Police Chief Louis Neese took charge of the police at the scene. Off-duty policemen were also called on the emergency. Deputy Fire Chief Apgar was joined by Deputy Chief Charles Rainbow, Assistant Chief George Weigand and Chief Thomas J. Phelan by the time three alarms were sounded. Deputy Chiefs William Miller, Walter Stackhouse and Dovgala took up stations on the fourth and fifth alarms. The fire force was gradually cut back as the blaze was brought under control and the ‘overhauling’ operations, including cellar pumping and debris removal, began.
“Firemen of Truck 1 and Engine 1 were still on the job putting out a troublesome fire hot spot in the basement of Norman’s after 8 a.m. today. Even firemen on vacation joined in the off-duty group that fell to with firefighters on the job. Broad and Hanover streets were a tangle of hoselines as firemen worked in the chill night. They were given coffee and food by volunteers from the Signal 22 canteen. The group rolled on the second alarm from their South Broad Street headquarters. Capt. James Kenny of Engine 1 was the only casualty. He was not injured but stricken with chills and near-collapse at 3 a.m. today. An ambulance took him to his engine house and then he went home. He is under the care of Dr. Jacob Belfer, the police and fire surgeon. Police guarded the burned-out stores to prevent pilfering. Investigations into the origin and cause of the disastrous fire continue. Deputy Chief Apgar left the scene after 11 hours. He told of firemen trying to get into the hell-hot cellar. ‘It was so hot you could hear singeing around your ears,’ Apgar said…”
November 10, 1957
In the early hours of Sunday, November 10, 1957, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was called out to assist Slackwood crews in battling a fire inside the Marroe Inn. The following account was published in the Trenton Evening Times on Monday, November 11, 1957: “With speed and dispatch, volunteer firemen early yesterday saved the Marroe Inn, popular eating place off the Brunswick Pike. An employee discovered the blaze at 2:45 a.m. and gave an alarm. As firemen of the Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road, and Slackwood companies arrived, flames were roaring up an inside stairway dividing two first-floor dining rooms in the restaurant. Despite heavy smoke that screened the source of the fire, which started in the cellar, the firemen brought it under control within a half-hour and thus saved the inn from possible destruction. The dense smoke spread throughout the structure. The bar on the first floor escaped any serious damage. Windows on the second-floor dining area and third-floor employees’ sleeping area were broken by firemen ventilating the building or cracked from the intense heat. Water damage was prevalent throughout the structure, but there was little fire damage above the cellar. At 10:30 p.m. a special officer guarding the burned place discovered the blaze smoldering again. Slackwood firemen were recalled to put out the new blaze…”
January 13, 1958
During the first meeting of the year, held on Monday, January 13, 1958, “Chief Linton Reed reported coats, helmets and boots have numbers from 1 to 16 and are assigned to most of the active firefighters. There are also spares on the trucks. Chief Reed asked that the following rules be abided by when answering an alarm: do not start trucks until the phone has been answered; do not get on the trucks until the driver stops on the ramp; and do not get on the trucks until you have coat, helmet and boots on.”
January 20, 1958
At 9:55 a.m. on Monday, January 20, 1958, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to a fire in the 112th Field Artillery Armory on Eggerts Crossing Road. According to the incident report, the fire was started by a welder’s torch and was out when the fire company arrived. During the alarm, William Carroll Jr. fell off one of the engines and bruised his left leg. He required medical care.
March 14-15, 1958
Over the weekend of Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15, 1958, Lawrence Road firefighters maintained a standby in the firehouse for 43 hours during a severe snow storm.
July 5, 1958
At 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 5, 1958, Lawrence Road firefighters were called out to fight a fire in a chicken coop at the corner of Merline Avenue and Zoar Street. One thousand feet of 2.5-inch hose and 500 feet of 1.5-inch hose were used. The structure was completely destroyed and firefighters were on the scene for about one hour, according to the incident report.
July 7, 1958
At 8 p.m. on Monday, July 7, 1958, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was called out after lightning struck the house at 610 Lawrence Road. Firefighters confined the blaze to the attic and were on the scene for 75 minutes, according to the incident report.
September 3, 1958
On the night of Wednesday, September 3, 1958, Lawrence Road firefighters stood by in the firehouse because of a power failure, caused by a motor vehicle accident, that rendered the siren temporarily useless. The Trenton Evening Times published the following account on Thursday, September 4, 1958: “A section of Lawrence Township was thrown into darkness and five teenagers were shaken up when their auto ran dead center into a light pole at the corner of Franklin Corner and Lawrence Road last night. The accident occurred just as the Lawrence Township committee meeting was about to begin and the municipal building was darkened for about 40 minutes. About 50 persons attending the meeting milled around in the darkness from 7:55 until 8:35 p.m. when the lights came back on. Homes were blacked out from Lawrenceville to the Lawrence Road Fire Co. for the same period…”
September 8, 1958
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, September 8, 1958, include: “Chief Linton Reed reported that he had gotten three prices on the new utility truck. He reported that he had taken trips to Dunellen, N.J., and to Hershey, Pa., to look over the trucks. He asked that all active firefighters come to drill Tuesday to look over specifications for the new truck. Joseph Lydon made the motion that we recess the meeting to look at DeCou’s utility truck that they brought over to show us.”
September 22, 1958
During the meeting held on Monday, September 22, 1958, “Chief Linton Reed reported that on September 9 the New Utility Truck committee got together with the active firefighters to go over the details of the new truck. He read off the specifications and the list of equipment to be carried on the new truck. He said that the committee had received three bids for the truck: from the N.J. Fire Equipment Co. for $10,500; from Security Fire Equipment Co. for $9,791; and from James B. Hunt Manufacturing Co. for $6,750. He said the committee had disqualified the bid from James B. Hunt because it was incomplete. A discussion followed concerning the specifications of the two trucks and the difference of the equipment on the trucks. This was later straightened out during a recess in the meeting. Chief Reed asked Treasurer George Welde whether or not we could afford to buy the truck at this time. He said that we could. Motion made by Clint Groover, seconded by Joseph Lydon, that we have a vote on whether we buy the truck. Results were: 16 voted to buy the truck; five voted not to buy the truck; and four abstained.”
October 22, 1958
At 3 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 1958, Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched mutual aid to Ewing Township to help battle a barn fire. The Trenton Evening Times published the following account on the front page of that night’s paper:
“Flames fanned by high winds destroyed dairy farm buildings in Ewing Township early today. Ten heifers and 32 cows perished in the 2 a.m. fire that erupted on the 100-acre farm of Wheldon Shivers of Lower Ferry Road, near West Upper Ferry Road. Only the two-story farm dwelling – where Shivers lives with his wife, son and daughter-in-law – escaped destruction. The large cow barn, a lengthy chicken shed, and two out-buildings were razed. Two tractors were salvaged but a hay baler, elevator and other equipment were destroyed along with a quantity of hay. Firemen said the blaze started in the cow barn and spread to the chicken shed and then to the out-buildings nearby. A shortage of water hampered firemen. The little water available from the engine tanks were used to wet down the house. Later, lines to a fire hydrant about a half-mile distant off Lower Ferry Road were hooked up. ‘If we hadn’t got that fire hydrant hooked up when we did, we probably wouldn’t have been able to save the house,’ said Paul Rossi, chief of the West Trenton Fire Co. ‘The fire was completely out of control when we arrived.’ Rossi suffered a minor injury when a spark flew into his left eye. He was treated at the scene.
“Chief Earl Elder of the Prospect Height Fire Co. estimated that 8,000 feet of fire hose was utilized. He said it was impossible to approach the barn early in the fire because of the intense heat. Shivers said he was awakened by someone banging on his door shortly before 2 a.m. The door knocker was identified as Jerry Brewer of Washington Crossing, who noticed the flames while driving near Mercer Airport about four-miles distant. Brewer telephones police from a nearby farm house. Shivers and his son hastened to the barn but were driven back by the flames. The heat was so intense, said bystanders, that firemen were compelled to lay the hoses while lying on the ground. An estimated 100 firemen from West Trenton, Pennington Road, Prospect Heights, Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Pennington fought the blaze, which was under control within one hour. Ambulances were sent to the scene by the Pennington Road Fire Co., the Delaware Valley Rescue Squad, and the Rusling Fire Co. Trenton Fire Department Drill Master John Dempster arrived on the scene and said Trenton companies were alerted for assistance. Firemen watched helplessly as a white cat darted into the flaming barn. The cat did not emerge. Dempster praised the firefighting techniques of the Ewing firemen…”
December 20, 1958
On Saturday, December 20, 1958, Lawrence Road firefighters once more responded into Trenton on a cover assignment after a major fire occurred in the city. The following details were published in the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on December 21, 1958: “A four-alarm fire burned through the four-story Style Shop building at 136-38 South Broad Street last night. Firemen said the 138 section was a total loss. An explosion of plate glass followed by clouds of smoke led off the blaze, which was battled by more than 100 city and suburban firemen. One fireman was injured and one was treated for smoke inhalation. Ten persons in apartments above the store were forced to flee into the subfreezing temperatures. Firefighters had the flames under control 61 minutes after the first alarm was given at 9:09 p.m. Working side-by-side with the city firemen were the volunteers of Capitol View and Union fire companies of Morrisville, and the Rusling Hose and Colonial fire companies of Hamilton…”
December 27, 1958
About 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, December 27, 1958, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was sent to the home of Rev. Wilson at 209 Albemarle Road after a fire erupted in the kitchen. Lawrence Road firefighters utilized 1,400 feet of 2.5-inch hose, 300 feet of 1.5-inch hose and three ladders, according to the incident report. They were on the scene for three hours. Slackwood Fire Co. responded to the scene with two engines, while Lawrenceville Fire Co. sent one engine to standby at Lawrence Road’s firehouse.
January 12, 1959
During the company meeting held on January 12, 1959, “Chief Linton Reed reported that the committee for the new truck was going to take a trip to Altoona, Pa., to see the truck.”
January 18, 1959
On Sunday, January 18, 1959, Lawrence Road Firefighter Warren Groover Jr. cut his chin while at the scene of an oil burner fire in the 2.5-story residence at 166 Eldridge Avenue. Two hundred feet of 2.5-inch hose and 150 feet of 1.5-inch hose were used and Lawrence Road firefighters remained on the scene for just over an hour, according to the incident report.
February 9, 1959
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held Monday, February 9, 1959, include: “Chief Linton Reed reported mufflers were put on both trucks and new batteries in the smaller truck. He said that the committee went to Altoona, Pa., to see the new truck. He also submitted a plan for invalids in houses, whereby stickers would be posted on invalids’ windows to show rescue workers that there is an invalid in the house. This was noted as a very good plan and a motion was passed that a letter be sent to the other two fire companies explaining the plan and getting their opinions on a township-wide plan of this sort. Harold Holden made a motion that the fire company appoint a committee to negotiate with the realtor of the owners of the lots next to the firehouse.”
February 15, 1959
Lawrence Road Firefighter Al Muskewitz sprained his ankle while responded to an alarm at 228 Eggerts Crossing Road on Sunday, February 15, 1959. The fire started on an oil stove and was out when firefighters arrived, according to the incident report.
February 23, 1959
During the meeting on Monday, February 23, 1959, “Chief Linton Reed reported that the new truck would be here around February 27 and that only qualified pump operators were to drive the truck. He reported that Notre Dame High School was inspected on February 23 and that a fire drill was held on the same day at the same school.”
March 9, 1959
At the meeting held on Monday, March 9, 1959, “Chief Linton Reed reported the new utility truck is now in service. He attended the state chiefs’ meeting in Newark. He reported we would burn down an old chicken coop on Eldridge Avenue on Sunday.”
May 20, 1959
On Wednesday, May 20, 1959, the Trenton Evening Times published a photograph with the following caption: “Here are members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. as they present a bronze memorial plaque to the fire company, which will be affixed to the front of the firehouse, bearing the names of the deceased members. This will replace the traditional black flag that used to fly on the face of the building. President Joseph Karatka (left) and Vice President Lee McConahy receive it on behalf of the fire company from Mrs. George Welde, auxiliary vice president, and Mrs. Linton Reed, auxiliary president.”
May 23, 1959
On Saturday, May 23, 1959, a dedication and housing ceremony was held at the firehouse for the new Ford utility truck. A photo of the new truck sitting on the ramp in front of the station was published in the Trenton Evening Times on Wednesday, May 27, 1959. Below the photo was the following caption: “Joseph Toomey, trustee of the Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Co., presents the key to a new truck to Chief Linton Reed and Vincent Terranova, corresponding secretary of the company. A large delegation of Mercer County, Trenton and Lawrence Township fire officials attended a housing ceremony for the $9,700 vehicle.”
October 26, 1959
At 5:45 p.m. on Monday, October 26, 1959, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was sent to assist Lawrenceville firefighters in battling a raging barn fire on Cold Soil Road. According to incident report, Lawrence Road firefighters were on the scene for five hours and 45 minutes. They used 150 feet of 2.5-inch hose, 500 feet of 1.5-inch hose and four ladders. During the fire, Chief Linton Reed Jr. slipped while descending a ladder and sprained his right wrist. The Trenton Evening Times published the following account on the front page of the newspaper on Tuesday, October 27, 1959: “Fire fed by 120 tons of baled hay wrecked a barn but a prize herd of 30 Brown Swiss cows was saved last night on the ‘White Cloud’ farm of Henry C. Woods Jr. on Cold Soil Road. The fire was discovered at 5:40 p.m. by Alvin Bainbridge, the manager of the Lawrence Township farm. As the flames raced through the hayloft, the animals were led out by Bainbridge, his wife, Maria, and owner Woods. Woods’ wife, Jane, telephoned the alarm. Firemen answered from Slackwood, Lawrence Road, Hopewell and Lawrenceville. The barn, measuring 150 by 70 feet, was quickly enveloped in flames and two-thirds destroyed. Lawrenceville firemen continued wetting down the mounds of smoldering hay until 6:45 a.m. today. The cause of the fire is not known. Woods is an English master at the Lawrenceville School. His house was tenanted in the 1930s by flier Charles A. Lindbergh while his Sourland Mountain home near Hopewell was being built…”
December 23, 1959
A raging fire on a bitterly cold night destroyed the old gym at the Lawrenceville School in the early hours of Wednesday, December 23, 1959. According to the incident report, Lawrence Road firefighters were on the scene for eight hours and used 2,200 feet of 2.5-inch hose, 250 feet of 1.5-inch hose, and 24-foot and 13-foot ladders. The following story and a dramatic photograph of the building in flames was published on the front page of that night’s Trenton Evening Times: “A spectacular fire early today wrecked the old gymnasium on the Lawrenceville School campus. The blaze was battled by volunteers fire companies with the temperature at 5 degrees above zero. The fire was discovered by an employee who lives across from the gym. She telephoned an alarm at 3:56 a.m. to Lawrence Township police. The flames were shooting out of the roof when the firemen arrived. They pumped water from hydrants and ponds near the building. The flames were brought under control within an hour. Chief Frank Buxton of Lawrenceville directed about 100 firemen. The cause of the fire and where it started are under investigation. The old gym building is located above 200 feet from the new Lavino fieldhouse. At the fire were volunteers from Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road, Slackwood, Ewing (Pennington Road and Prospect Heights) and Princeton Township (Engine 1). The General Alarmers turned out to give coffee and food to the firemen. Some volunteers were still at the scene at 8 a.m. wetting down the smoldering remains of the structure, which was built of masonry and wood. The old gymnasium was built in 1902 and was the center of all indoor athletics and physical education activities at the school for more than 50 years…”