By Wayne T. McCabe, President, Sussex County Historical Society


The Newton Fire Department was initially established following an 1835 fire in a chair maker’s shop on Mill Street. Because of that blaze, residents of the village of Newton held a meeting in December of that year for the purpose of forming a fire department. While there apparently was a lot of talking, the actual formation of the department did not happen until well into the following year. At that time, John Kraber was elected to serve as the foreman of the company and Judge Martin Ryerson was selected to serve as the secretary.


The governing body bought a crank engine for the new fire department, as a replacement for the 14 tar-coated canvas water buckets that previously hung on pegs in the basement of the old courthouse. These buckets were used by a line of citizens who would collectively form a bucket brigade to try to extinguish fires.


Three additional fire companies were formed during the ensuing years, obtaining more necessary firefighting equipment. In November of 1867, the citizens of Newton acquired a tract of land on High Street (near Park Place) to build a new two-story engine house. This was known as the No. 2 Engine House and was home to the no. 4 engine company.


In February of 1879, the Kittatinny Hose Company took formal action to withdraw from membership in the Newton Steamer Company no. 1 to form a new company, known as the Kittatinny Hose and Ladder Company. The equipment for this company and the Steamer Company were stored and maintained in various locations.


In early 1890, the Newton Town Committee, together with the Kittatinny and Steamer Companies, determined that it would be beneficial to the town to have both companies located in a new engine house on Spring Street, in the center of the commercial area of town.


On June 23, 1890, the Newton Town Committee executed the necessary papers and acquired a part of the Judge Townsend lot on Spring Street. The committee proposed the construction of a new engine house on the site. In April of 1891, the committee awarded the construction contracts and work began the following month. The building was completed by December of 1891, and formally opened on March 15, 1892.


The Italianate style engine house, located at 150 Spring Street, is two stories in height and measures 35 feet in width by 55 feet in depth. The building was set back 17 feet from the street in order to allow fire apparatuses to stand in front of the building without obstructing the sidewalk.


The building is four bays wide, with one-over-one double-hung window units on the second floor. The windows have projecting arched stone lintels, extending one third of the distance down the sides of the windows, with stone sills.


The first-floor level of the building originally had two elliptical arch-topped fire apparatus entrances, each having double wood hinged doors. The cut limestone arch over the left side doors had the name "Kittatinny" cut into it. For the Newton Steamers, the right-side arch had "Newton" chiseled into the limestone. These equipment doors were flanked on the outside bays by regular entrance doors, surmounted by fixed single-lite transoms. The side doors and equipment doors were surmounted with the same projecting arched lintels as the upper story windows.


The deep cornice has brackets on the outside edges with denticulated molding extending between those brackets. The fascia of the building is broken in the middle section that projects out approximately six inches and is supported by corbeled brick. There are five small round carved ornaments evenly spaced across the frieze of this projecting section.


The building has a single gable roof, extending front to back, with a circular window in both the front and rear gable ends.


The firehouse served as the home of the Newton Steamer Company and the Kittatinny Hose Company for 87 years. In 1979, when the town built the new fire station on Mill Street and moved all of the equipment there, the Spring Street facility was converted into a museum that displayed old firefighting equipment and memorabilia from all of the fire companies in town.


The museum had to be shut down a couple of years ago so that structural repairs could be made. It is through the efforts of dedicated volunteers from the town fire department and others that the restoration work is proceeding, according to Newton Fire Museum Director Dan Finkle.


Some of the firefighting equipment that will be on display includes the original horse-drawn steam pumper, hose carts that were pulled to fires by members of the company, chemical fire extinguisher carts, and a reacquired 1948 Model "D" Mack pumper.


Sussex County Historical Society President Wayne T. McCabe may be contacted at sussexhistorian@juno.com