An early 1920s roster photo of the Beachwood Volunteer Fire Company, No. 1.
Today being the first day of October with its designation as ‘Fire Prevention Month’, we present the steps leading up to and conditions surrounding the creation of our borough volunteer fire company, as recorded by William Mill Butler in his 1924 publication, ‘Beachwood Who’s Who and Directory’ (which can currently be purchased in reprint at the Ocean County Historical Society, Toms River).
Check back throughout the month as we have scheduled a full slate of fire company related articles in recognition for their service as part of fire prevention month.
Nov. 1914 – New York Tribune ‘Beachwood’ land promotion advertised
May 1915 – Beachwood officially opens on Decoration (Memorial) Day weekend
July 20th 1916 – B.C. Mayo writes letter on behalf of himself and Tribune to residents suggesting they meet and “appoint committees to handle the following matters” including fire protection
July 29th 1916 – Residents organized the Beachwood Property Owners’ Association for the purposes outlined by Mayo
1917 (unspecified date) – “Frank J. Turner and M.R. DeMiege were re-appointed fire wardens for the year.” Butler did not mention their original appointment the previous year, but it can be safely understood that these men were the borough’s first fire wardens following the organization of the Property Owner’s Association the previous summer.
January 1917 – “The picturesque Japanese pagoda house erected on Capstan Avenue by Mrs. Wanda E. Lohr was completed.” [Mrs. Lohr would later factor in as a main fundraising organizer for the borough's first fire apparatus]
Wanda E. Lohr's Japanese Pagoda house, seen here in January 2009.
1917 (unspecified date) – “It was reported that M. Maximillian R. DeMiege, who spent the summer in Beachwood, was an agent of the French Government and had signed a $35,000,000 contract for munitions and supplies.” [Clearly related to World War I, which had been fought until this period among mostly European nations since late 1914, but to date no further information has been found regarding this odd report on one of our two first fire wardens]
1917 (unspecified date) – [Writing about popular ice skating on Windy Cove]: “During the evenings bonfires supplied light and heat and were also utilized by the skaters to roast marshmallows.”
March 5th 1917 – Beachwood Borough bill is introduced and passed by New Jersey state senate without a dissenting vote; is later passed by the House and signed by the governor.
Windy Cove, seen here frozen in Winter 2009.
April 6th 1917 – America enters the Great War, later to be known as World War I.
May 11th 1917 – A special election is held for the first borough officials; George D. Suydam is elected as a councilman for a two-year term.
May 14th 1917 – First borough council is organized; Mayor Joseph H. Senior appoints George D. Suydam chairman of the police and fire committee.
September 25th 1917 – Primaries for the fall election held and passed with no changes from May special election.
November 6th 1917 – All nominees appointed at the May special election and subsequently chosen in September primaries were elected with no changes.
January 4th 1918 – Mayor and council met for reorganization meeting; George D. Suydam elected council president.
March 1918 – “A forest fire during the first week in March touched the southwest end of Beachwood, and had the wind been favorable, it might have been serious. The lot-owners were urged to comply with the ordinance to clean up the underbrush.”
September 1918 – Borough switches to commission form of government due in part to “the difficulty in obtaining an adequate attendance of members of the borough council” as many held year-round homes and jobs in New York City.
Fall 1918 – “The work of cleaning out the underbrush in the lots of the built-up section of Beachwood progressed considerably.”
Fall 1918 – “Mrs. Wanda E. Lohr and A.D. Nickerson, of Beachwood, were among the judges of the Toms River mardi-gras for the benefit of its fire department.”
November 11th 1918 – World War I ends with the signing of the Armistice Treaty on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
1919 (unspecified date) – “A brush fire in the woods on the southeast part of the borough was put out by Mrs. F.W. Goodrich and two small boys.”
August 9th 1919 – “At the annual meeting of the Beachwood Property Owners’ Association… the movement for the purchase of a chemical fire engine, started by Mrs. Wanda E. Lohr, was warmly endorsed.”
Original Beachwood Borough Hall, located approximately where the Mayo Park Playground stands today.
August 15th 1919 – “The Beachwood “races,” a novel and amusing entertainment, in aid of the purchase of a chemical fire engine, drew a large attendance at Borough Hall. The idea was to cut long narrow pieces of tape into two strips and those that finished first in the various “heats” were the winners and ran again in the finals. Mrs. Wanda E. Lohr, chairman of the committee on fire protection, was the moving spirit, assisted by Mrs. A. Keller and Dr. J.H. Richards. Many beautiful prizes were secured by them in Toms River, among them being a gold watch donated by W.L. DeGraw. Cash donations were also received and the event proved a great success, between $300 and $400 being realized for the engine.”
1920 (unspecified date) – “Joseph A. Spears, having started to burn rubbish and accidentally set the brush afire, was fines $25.00 for failing to obtain a permit.”
Edwin D. Collins, circa 1924.
July 10th 1920 – “At the meeting of the Beachwood Property Owners’ Association, E.D. Collins, treasurer [later elected mayor], reported on hand: Fund for fire protection, $331.78.”
July 12th 1920 – B.C. Mayo dies in Asheville, North Carolina, of pulmonary tuberculosis
1920 (unspecified date) – The Beachwood Property Owners’ Association adopts a resolution “that the association should conduct a carnival and fair during 1921, for the purpose of raising the additional money necessary for the purchase of fire apparatus.”
June 20th 1920 – “A forest fire which threatened Beachwood [this] afternoon was said to have been set at Pinewald by a Jersey Central train. The fire in Beachwood burned around several houses on Beachwood Heights [their name for the area of town south of the railroad tracks, today existing as south of Route 9 from the Garden State Parkway to where it meets Atlantic City Boulevard in front of St. Paul's Lutheran Church] but thanks to a small army of fire-fighters, under the direction of Fire Warden Joseph E. Abbott, and the Toms River fire company, the conflagration was extinguished without loss of life or property.” [this may be the very first fire call answered by residents of Beachwood not yet organized as a borough fire company]
August 11th 1921 – “The leading event of the 1921 season was the Beachwood fair in aid of the fire apparatus fund. Borough hall [the original borough hall operated within an original building erected by the New York Tribune as 'The Auditorium', located approximately where the Mayo Park Playground stands today] was beautifully decorated with pine and oak and red, white and blue bunting and flags. Fifteen booths were arranged around the sides of the hall, with a five-foot aisle between the booths and the partition separating the main room from the veranda. The chairmen in charge of the booths were [extensive list of residents and their duties has been removed for space].
The fair was opened promptly at 4pm on Thursday, August 11th, by O. Frederic Rost, president of the Property Owners’ Association. Max DeRochemont was general chairman of the fair committee and Mrs. George D. Siffert [nee Thomas, she was the daughter Samuel Bath Thomas, founder of Thomas English Muffins] chairman of the booths in charge of the Woman’s Club.
The receipts from sales were $2,170.17; cash donations, $137; total, $2,307,17; expenses, $331.30, leaving a net result of $1,975.87.
Of this, the sum of $1,645.99 was paid for the handsome four-wheel chemical fire engine, which was on exhibition during the fair, and which had been previously ordered by vote of the board of trustees of the Property Owners’ Association and actually purchased by President Rost on his personal responsibility. After paying for the apparatus, there remained a cash balance of $329.88, according to a report made to the association on August 27th.
Labor Day 1921 – “One of the striking incidents of [this day] was the formal presentation of the fire ring system and the fire apparatus to the borough by the Property Owners’ Association. O. Frederick Rost, president of the latter, made the presentation speech, in front of the club house, and Mayor J.H. Senior responded for the borough. The suggestion for a volunteer fire department was made about this time.”
Original hand-pulled fire apparatus, 1921.
Beachwood Fire Apparatus at presentation, 1921. William Mill Butler can be seen standing at foreground-left, identifiable by white hair, glasses, crossed arms and speckled bowtie.
March 9th 1922 – “At the meeting of the trustees of the Property Owners’ Association, in New York, the treasurer reported funds on hand as follows” including $686.56 for the fire protection fund.
1922 (unspecified date) – “Subscriptions toward the engine fund of Toms River Fire Company, No. 2, were received from a number of Beachwood residents as the company aimed to protect property in the outlying districts, including Beachwood.”
May 9th 1922 – “At the first meeting of the season of the Property Owners’ Association, a communication was received from the new board of commissioners who were elected May 9th, suggesting that, instead of purchasing a separate hand-drawn fire apparatus for use in Beachwood Heights, a Ford truck chassis be placed at their disposal, and then the fire apparatus previously presented to the borough would be mounted upon the chassis at borough expense and made available for use in all parts of the borough.
It was also promised that a volunteer fire department with fifty or more members would at all times be ready to respond to fire alarms. The trustees of the Property Owners’ Association thereupon voted to purchase the chassis without delay and present it to the borough.
John J. Nolze, circa 1924.
June 23rd 1922 – “The Beachwood Volunteer Fire Company was organized [on this date], with the following officers: Chief, Mayor E.D. Collins; deputy chief, Capt. E.F. Parker; captain, Jacob J. Hoffman; foreman, John J. Nolze; secretary and treasurer, William B. Brown.”
July 7th, 1922 – “At a meeting of the fire company, Jacob J. Hoffman, John J. Nolze, and Chief of Police James McDonald, were appointed a committee to secure a Ford chassis upon which to mount the fire apparatus. Also to look for a site for a fire house. The chassis was soon promised by the Property Owners’ Association which originally donated the apparatus, which was hand drawn.”
July 14th 1922 – “At a meeting of Beachwood Volunteer Fire Company, No. 1, a total membership of 24 was reported. Also, $80 subscribed toward the company’s equipment.”
August 1st 1922 – “The subscriptions to the equipment fund of Volunteer Fire Company, No. 1, had reached $161 by [this date]. The amount required was $250.”
August 5th 1922 – “Despite threatening weather, Volunteer Fire Company, No. 1, had a fine dance at Borough Hall [this] Saturday evening. Property owners all agreed that fire protection was necessary and declared that those willing to give their time to fight fire should be commended and encouraged.”
September 2nd 1922 – Curiosity and amusement were had by attendees of the annual masquerade when a number of borough women arrived masked and dressed in homemade costumes as firemen, proclaiming to be “Volunteer Fire Department, No. 2″
Labor Day 1922 – “Beachwood Volunteer Fire Department, No. 1, held a parade at 2 o’clock on [this date], headed by Mayor Collins and Captain James McDonald and a number of police reserves. The firemen were dressed in their new uniforms of dark blue trousers, shirts and caps, with badges on the front of the latter. Then came the newly-equipped automobile fire truck, manned by volunteers, and followed by an automobile driven by Mrs. B.A. Levett, in which rode Mrs. Wanda E. Lohr, the original agitator for fire protection, and Mrs. Albertine Keller and Dr. and Mrs. J.H. Richards, who had all assisted in getting up the first entertainment for the benefit of the fire protection fund, out of which grew the fair and final presentation to the Borough of the fire fighters’ apparatus. Then, in the parade, came the wives of the firemen, dressed in white and wearing white cockade hats. The parade came around the plaza to the club house where President Rost, on behalf of the Property Owners’ Association, formally presented the Ford chassis, upon which the chemical engine was mounted, to the Borough, the engine, hand-drawn, having been presented the previous summer. Mayor Collins accepted the gift with appropriate remarks. In behalf of the committee on Labor Day games and sports, Mr. Rost also presented a siren to the fire company for the purpose of sounding alarms.”
Beachwood Fire Apparatus, remounted on Ford chassis, circa 1923.
Fall 1922 – “In order to purchase a site and erect a borough hall and fire house on Atlantic City Boulevard, near Beachwood Boulevard, the commissioners decided to issue temporary improvement bonds, to the amount of $6,500. Notice to bidders were issued November 29th.”
January 27th 1923 – “Bids for the new fire house and borough hall were invited on [this date].”
February 24th 1923 – “Residents of Beachwood, to the number of nearly 200, gathered in the Rose Room in the Hotel Astor of New York City, Saturday evening [on this date], to attend the annual dinner and dance of the Beachwood Property Owners’ Association.
Mayor E.D. Collins… delivered a brief but interesting annual message concerning the affairs of the borough. He mentioned the new Borough Hall which was in process of erection and which also contained ample quarters for the volunteer fire department.”
Beachwood Borough Hall/Firehouse, erected 1923.
March 18th 1923 – “The cornerstone of the new Borough Hall and Fire House was laid on Sunday afternoon [on this date], in the presence of over 100 people from Beachwood and Toms River. The Star Spangled Banner was played by the American Legion Orchestra of Toms River during the raising of the flag and Rev. R.S. Nichols of the same village offered prayer and delivered an address before the cornerstone was put in place. The stone bore the inscription, Borough Hall and Fire House. A copper box, donated by Frank Goodrich, was placed inside and contained a brief story of the Borough Government written by William Howard Jeffrey, the Borough Counsel, besides papers of various civic and social organizations which were read by Commissioner John J. Nolze, director of public property, before being sealed up.
Mayor [Edwin] D. Collins made an address in which he treated upon the high hopes and ambition of the present Borough Government for a greater Beachwood. Mrs. Wanda E. Lohr, as the original advocate of fire protection, was also called upon for a brief address. The new building is of concrete block with asbestos shingle roofing. It is 25 feet by 40 feet and two stories high. The ground floor is for fire house purposes and the upper floor for the Borough Hall and accommodation of the Borough officials.”