The community recently celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Opening of Malden’s Central Fire Station located at the corner of Sprague and Salem Streets. The well-attended ceremony was presided over by Assistant Chief Bill Sullivan with remarks offered by Fire Chief Kevin Finn, Commissioner Emery Haskell and City Council President Jadeane Sica. Several elected and city officials were also in attendance. Musical selections mirroring those played at the 1919 dedication were performed by the Malden High School Band, including the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Washington Post.” Malden High School Choral Arts Society members Demitri Borrero and Jennifer Vasquez performed “Over There.”
In his remarks, Chief Kevin Finn recognized former Fire Chief John “Jack” Garrity who is the oldest living retired member of the Malden Fire Department. Aged 100 years, Jack was born only a few months after the building opened, became a firefighter on November 2, 1941, rose through the ranks and was promoted to Chief of the Department on July 5, 1981. He retired on July 31, 1984.
Assistant Chief Bill Sullivan provided a historical perspective on the building. On June 13, 1918, Mayor Charles M. Blodgett met with the Board of Aldermen for the final approval to move forward with the project to build a new central fire station. The building would replace the central fire station originally built in 1874 that was located on Main Street on the site that later became the throughway of Exchange Street. A home on the building site owned by the Sprague family was relocated to another part of the property owned by the family. It was later reported that the entire project cost $100,000. Assistant Chief Sullivan read the names of the firemen who served in World I, which included his grandfather, William P. Sullivan.
On August 29, 1918, a ceremonial cornerstone was laid at the groundbreaking event in front of an audience of hundreds which included residents, elected, city and fire officials. A time capsule was placed into the cornerstone containing among other things, a photograph of Mayor Blodgett, his inaugural address, recommendations of the Mayor and finance committee for 1918, rules and manual of the Fire Department, an official silver badge of the Fire Department, newspapers containing a description of the project with pictures, coins of the 1918 mint, Fire Department roster, members of the building commission and a list of all the firemen serving “under the colors” in World War I. Also enclosed was a B&M Season railroad ticket on the Western Division for June, July and August of 1871 which was discovered in the house of the Sprague heirs’ when it was moved.
On March 31, 1919, thousands turned out for the dedication of the newly built “modern colonial brick” fire station. The Opening Ceremonies included three hours of entertainment with dancing, readings and a band that played patriotic selections, including “Over There” in honor of the Firemen who were serving overseas in World War I. Newspapers of the day claimed that as many as 8,000 visited the station that weekend. Assistant Chief Sullivan highlighted the tremendous efforts of the firefighters assigned to the Central Fire Station, who over the last few years spent many hours working to remodel and update the building. In cooperation with the Mayor’s office, Building Commissioner and Public Facilities, Malden Firefighters have provided the skill and labor to ensure the building will continue to provide service to our city for many years to come.
“I emulate Mayor Blodgett’s comments from 1919 when he commended the workmanship and quality of this building,” said Mayor Gary Christenson. “I am also truly honored to not only be able to celebrate the strong history of this station but to also have the opportunity to thank the men and women of our Fire Department for their service to our community. Here’s to the next 100 years!
Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to enjoy refreshments generously donated by Anthony’s of Malden and Stop and Shop and to tour the facility to observe the renovations. They also viewed the contents of the time capsule which was recently opened in honor of the 100-year anniversary. Unfortunately, nearly all the paper contents have deteriorated as the box was made of copper and was not weather or moisture proof. The coins and a badge survived as well as a portion of the B&M Season railroad ticket. Salvageable items along with a list of what was originally buried will be reinterred with items and articles from last week’s celebration in an airtight, moisture free receptacle. All this will be reopened in 3019!
Released by the Office of Mayor Gary Christenson
Photos by Paul Hammersley