New Jersey Fire Museum to Hold 5th Annual Open House on September 27
Upper Freehold-The New Jersey Fire Museum and Fallen Firefighters Memorial, 4 Polhemustown Road, Allentown, New Jersey, 08501 is holding its 5th annual Open House to showcase the history of firefighting on Sunday, September 27, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This event is free of charge.
The museum has a collection of fire apparatus dating back to 1814 and as new as the 1970s. The collection is made up of hand-drawn, horse-drawn, and motorized units. A significant part of the 5th Annual Open House will be a Memorial Service dedicated to N.J. firefighters who have suffered Line of Duty Deaths. The service will also recognize all firefighters who have faithfully served their communities.
The Open House will include a free gift for all young people who attend and activities for children. Parents can take pictures of their children in and around the trucks. Visitors will be able to watch a dramatic demonstration by the N.J. division of the National Fire Sprinkler Association that will show the benefit of home fire sprinkler systems.
The winner of the state-sanctioned 50/50 raffle, sold throughout the day, will be chosen at 3:00 p.m. Hope Fire Company, as a food vendor, will offer a variety of lunch items.
Assemblyman Ronald Dancer said, “Each year the Open House event draws more people, more families. It is an opportunity this year, post COVID-19, for families to spend a day outdoors, seeing and learning about the fire service in New Jersey over the last 200 years.”
Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone said, “I am proud to have this incredible museum right here in Monmouth County that honors the heritage and sacrifice of the brave men and women who serve as firefighters. I encourage everyone to attend the New Jersey Fire Museum and Fallen Firefighters Memorial Open House to learn about the history of firefighters and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving as a firefighter.”
For more information, email President Dave W. Horsnall at presidentjfiremuseum.org.
The Firefighters Memorial is sacred ground established and dedicated to honor those who have given their time and in some circumstances their lives (LODD). The site displays engraved pavers, a steel beam from the 911 World Trade Center Attack, and an annual Memorial Service for all New Jersey residents.
History of the Firefighters’ Museum (taken from the website)
1960s: The Department of Environmental Protection began accepting donations of fire equipment and related material from Mr. Ernest N. Day, Dunellen, a fire equipment dealer and a personal collector of fire equipment and memorabilia. The material was to be exhibited and preserved in a future fire museum. The division continued to accept donations until 1986, by which time Mr. Day had transferred essentially his entire collection, valued at approximately $1 million in 1986.
1970s: Governor William Cahill signed legislation authorizing the establishment of a State Fire Engine and Equipment Museum and provided for an Advisory Commission to select an appropriate site for the museum. A nine-member commission, appointed by Governor Brendan Byrne in March 1975, chose a site in Allaire State Park, in southeastern Monmouth County.
1980s: In 1983, the State appropriated $1 million for the design and construction of the museum. A condition of the use of these funds was that a not-for-profit corporation be created to operate and maintain the completed facility. The New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry (NJDPF) commissioned a design of the proposed facility, and a private not-for-profit corporation, the New Jersey Fire Engine and Equipment Museum at Allaire. Inc. was established to operate and maintain the proposed museum.
In 1984, the division hired an architectural firm to design the proposed facility. During the design effort, it was determined that a suitable facility could not be built with the available funds. The project would be delayed until additional funds could be obtained. The non-profit corporation lobbied for the necessary funds and in 1988 Governor Kean signed into law an additional appropriation of $2 million.
In 1989, the architectural firm of Kerht, Shatken Sharon of Princeton was hired to prepare plans and specifications for a larger facility with the additional appropriated funds.
1990s: The design of the new larger facility, a minimum of 18,000 square feet, proved to be too large for the original site in Allaire State Park. The state DEP identified a 14-acre site across County Route 524 from Allaire State Park as a new location. The planning for the new facility was completed in 1991 at an estimated construction cost of $2.5 million.
At the request of the Fire Safety Bureau of the Department of Community Affairs, a monument dedicated to New Jersey firefighters who had fallen in the line of duty was added to the museum plan and endorsed by the NJ State Firemen’s Relief Association.
The project lay dormant for a time. In 1999, the non-profit corporation was conveyed to a new Board of Directors. Executive and Volunteer committees were established. The project’s scope was expanded to include an interactive fire safety learning experience which could be incorporated to grade school curricula and serve to attract corporate sponsorships. A Development Study was prepared and the fund-raising plan was expanded to include an appeal for both public and private support.
2000s: Efforts to provide public funds were made in several legislature sessions since 2000. In 2002, legislation for $7 million in capital construction came close to passage. Efforts to provide private funds have also been underway since 2000. The membership campaign generates “grass roots” support from firefighters. Hundreds of individuals and fire departments currently hold memberships ranging from $25 to $1,000. The memorial paver campaign generates funds for construction of the memorial with over 200 pavers sold to date at prices ranging from $100 to $500. A third campaign targets New Jersey fire equipment vendors. Together these efforts covered operating costs of the non-profit, primarily the quarterly newsletter, and provided a modest growing reserve for construction but they fall far short of the project’s capital construction goals.
In 2003, an Honorary Board of Directors was established with Former Governor Thomas Kean as Chairman to cultivate interest and support for the project among the leaders of N.J. organizations and corporations sharing an interest in family fire safety education and an appreciation for the sacrifices of fire-fighters. For several reasons this Honorary Board was not reappointed and over time became inactive. An updated valuation of the historic Ernest Day collection placed its value at $2M. The state coordinated the long-term loan of a historic hand operated engine to the Trenton Fire Dept Museum from the Ernie Day collection as that particular engine had once served Trenton.
The Fire Museum established a website and Facebook page to maintain and expand visibility of the project to the public. In 2015 the Fire Museum with a three-way agreement among the Fire Museum, Monmouth County, and DEP State Park Service, was granted use of former Princeton Nursery property in Upper Freehold Township near Allentown, N.J. The site included a 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse formerly used to house agricultural equipment and a smaller building formerly used as the sales office. The growing Fire Museum collection of apparatus and memorabilia donated from individuals and fire agencies was relocated to that location. Concurrently, the state released custody of the Ernest Day collection to the Fire Museum and it too was moved to the new storage facility.
In 2016 the NJ Fire Museum hosted its first public open house at the Polhemustown Road location. Personalized memorial pavers that will be part of the NJ Fallen Firefighter Memorial were also placed on temporary display. The event drew a large crowd of interested citizens. Another open house is scheduled for September 2020.
In early 2020 the Upper Freehold Township committee passed a resolution urging the Monmouth County Freeholders to adopt a resolution asking the DEP State Parks Service to expand the size of the area and recognize the Polhemustown Road property as the permanent location for the NJ Fire Museum & Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
Many additional apparatus and items of memorabilia have been donated to the museum. As a result of both public and local government support, the current outlook for a permanent fire museum and memorial is better than it has been in some time. The effort to gain formal acknowledgment of a permanent location at Allentown is a significant step forward. The need for capital funding remains another critical step on the road to establishing a first-class Fire Museum, Interactive Learning Center, and Fallen Firefighter Memorial.