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 Dunhams, 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
citys 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....
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.
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. Marys 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 companys insurance
company, Lawrence Road firefighters Warren Groover Sr., Thomas Hawthorne,
William V. Carroll Jr., and Clinton W. Groover all were injured on March
Trenton Evening Times documented the fire at St. Marys Cathedral
with several stories and dramatic photographs that appeared on the front
page and several inside pages of that nights 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. Marys 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 OConnor 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.
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. Marys 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.
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. Marys.
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
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
schools newer wing, to the rear, was also destroyed. The blaze
broke out on the third floor shortly before 9 a.m., probably in a janitors
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.
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. Marys 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 departments 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...
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. Marys Cathedral and damaged
Jefferson School. Seven of them were on the fire line; the other ten
occupied the citys 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.
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. Marys 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. Marys
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
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...
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 nights
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.
News about Lawrence Roads fire radio system was reported in the
Trenton Evening Times on Thursday, May 17, 1956, in an article about
the preceding nights 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.
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 Potkays 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,
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
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.
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.
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 halls 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.
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
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 drivers
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.
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.
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...
On Wednesday, December 19, 1956, a 40-year-old man, Elber Cooper Lucas,
was arrested for setting the fires that destroyed St. Marys 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,
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.
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. (Editors Note: Although Lawrence Road
Fire Co. is not mentioned in the news story, a list of the fire companys
1957 emergency calls indicates the company was called in to assist.)
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 Lees 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 Lees. 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.
Trentons mutual assistance system went into effect, summoning
suburban firefighters to city engine houses as the third alarm was recorded
On Thursday, July 18, 1957, Lawrence Road firefighters were called to
a fire at Annies Diner on Brunswick Pike. A photo of the burning
diner appeared in that nights edition of the Trenton Evening Times,
accompanied by the following caption: Lawrence Township firemen
are shown dousing flames that wrecked one end of Annies 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.
On Sunday, October 27, 1957, a general alarm heavily damaged several
stores, including Hamilton Jewelers, in the heart of Trentons
business district. Lawrence Road firefighters at first responded to
help cover the citys 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 citys second
biggest business district. Left today in smoking water-logged ruins
are the Hamilton Jewelers at 24 North Broad Street and Normans
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 Yards Department Store at State
and Broad Streets. Smoke also filtered into Bond Clothes at 10 North
Broad Street, Lipmans Jewelers at 14 North Broad Street, and Leroys
Dress Shop at 16 North Broad Street, where water damage also occurred.
Smoke was reported in Neimonds Dress Shop at 109 East Hanover
Street and the Harry Campbell Fur Co. at the same address, and also
in Rauchs Mens 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.
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
couldnt enter the building. Pike poles were used to break out
the stores 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 citys 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 Normans.
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 Normans. 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. Normans display of gifts
and cars were wrecked. Parts of the floors in both stores collapsed
into the water-filled cellars.
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 Morrisvilles 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.
of Truck 1 and Engine 1 were still on the job putting out a troublesome
fire hot spot in the basement of Normans 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
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
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.
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 welders 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 DeCous utility truck that
they brought over to show us.
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.
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 nights paper:
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 hadnt got that
fire hydrant hooked up when we did, we probably wouldnt 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.
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
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
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 Roads firehouse.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 nights 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