Construction of the long-anticipated Steamer House building that will house the Owego Fire Department’s 1866 Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine and 1939 Sanford Hose Truck, immediately north of Owego Fire Station #2 and at the former Lloyd’s Barbershop site on North Avenue, began this week. Originally proposed in January 2020, funding is now in place for the building to be raised. The new building, steam fire engine, and hose truck are under the care, custody and control of Owego Hose Teams, Inc.
“We’ve fought through the COVID-19 pandemic, costs overruns, and scheduling delays the past three years and are thrilled to see our efforts paying off with the Steamer House finally being built on the busiest road in Tioga County, showcasing our community’s support of the fire service and historic preservation,” said Hose Team Captain Pat Gavin.
The building, modeled after one located in Marathon, N.Y., is being constructed of recycled barn beams and glass solarium walls for 360-degree viewing with a steeple supporting an antique fire bell, previously located in the clock tower of Owego Central Fire Station. The bell was restored by the Verdin Bell Company in Ohio, and once installed in the Steamer House it will ring again.
In collaboration with the steam fire engine project, the Owego Free Academy (OFA) band will premiere of a new piece of music, by local composer Chris Bill, called “Steampunk Guardian,” honoring the work of the Hose Team in our community, specifically the work they are doing restoring the steam fire engine on Monday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Owego Apalachin Theater on Sheldon Guile Boulevard.
OFA Band Members have been partnering with the Hose Team since 2019 to bring awareness to local history and heroes. Through their research at the Tioga County Historical Society, they discovered a long history of collaborations between the fire department and the school bands through parades and community service events. The culminating piece for wind bands will be approximately 2-4:30 minutes long and about a grade level 3, so it is playable by most high school and community bands.
Payment for the commission was made, in part, through a 2023 Community Arts Grant awarded by the Arts Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.
“We are delighted to be working with the OFA Band on this part of the Steamer project and look forward to hearing the music Monday night,” Gavin noted.
The Steam Fire Engine is under repair at Firefly Restorations in Hope, Maine. The 157-year-old Steamer has not been operational since the late 1980s, at which time it was the oldest operating licensed steam fire engine in the United States.
Andy Swift with Firefly Restorations and Brian Fanslau, with Maine Locomotive & Machine Works, have been hard at work on the restoration including the rebuilding of its boiler. Work on the Steamer will conclude in the Spring 2024.
Once the Steamer returns, the Hose Team plans to partner with local high schools starting with OFA, Candor, and Newark Valley. Students will learn about steam power and steam machinery, boilers, pistons and cylinders with steam engines, and hydraulics. It is expected this knowledge will aid the students as they advance their careers in science and technology at college or in the private sector. The program will also be an opportunity to recruit the students into the volunteer fire service.
Gavin added, “The Steamer isn’t going to sit in the Steamer House and collect dust. We will have it out in the community and schools, putting our community’s investment in it to work.”