A Rensselaer County fire department is planning to demolish its historic former home and replace it with lawn and landscaping for a new firehouse next door. Local historians oppose the destruction of the 1873 fire house and are seeking community help to save the structure.
The West Sand Lake Volunteer Fire Company was the third rural volunteer fire company organized in the county, and the first in the town, organized about 30 years before most other companies began to be formed in the area.
Situated just south of the center of Rensselaer County, the Town of Sand Lake was officially formed on June 19th, 1812. It’s comprised of about 22,000 acres, much of which was part of the East Manor of Rensselaerswijck, belonging to the wealthy and politically powerful Van Rensselaer family.
The hamlet of West Sand Lake is located in the northwest part of town at the junction of what was the Albany Plank Road, leading from Albany to the New York – Massachusetts state line (now Route 43) and the road leading north to Troy (now Route 150).
In and around West Sand Lake, there were textile and saw mills, factories, hotels and other wooden structures. Because lakes, ponds and streams were plentiful in the region, which is in close proximity to Albany and Troy, West Sand Lake and nearby Averill Park were summer resorts in the nineteenth century, eventually served by a trolley system.
Mill owner John McLaren spearheaded the organization of the fire company at a public meeting held in 1872 after several large and very costly mill fires. The first firehouse, the one under threat today, was constructed in 1873. In April, 1874 the company purchased a hand pumper from the Lafayette Engine Company No. 3 in Lansingburgh, NY for $500.00. Originally named Old Joke by the Lafayette Engine Company, over the years its name has changed to Old Joe. The old pumper, active until the 1950s, is currently on display in the recently renovated historic 1873 fire hall in it’s original Engine Room.
Now, the West Sand Lake Fire Company is planning to build a new firehouse — and demolish the original historic 1873 building, replacing it with lawn and landscaping. According to local historians there is sufficient room to construct a new, modern firehouse on the site without destroying the iconic 1873 structure so saving the historic building will not impact public safety.
At its meeting on May 9th, the Board of Trustees of the Sand Lake Historical Society resolved “That the Sand Lake Historical Society formally opposes the planned demolition of the historic West Sand Lake Firehouse and strongly encourages Fire Department membership and leadership, public officials, and community leaders to seek alternative solutions.”
There will a public meeting at the West Sand Lake Firehouse on Wednesday June 14th at 7 pm. The Historical Society is asking members and supporters to attend the meeting to “tell firehouse leadership and town officials that this is unacceptable and that they need to adopt some alternative plan.”
Photos: Above, the historic 1873 West Sand Lake Fire House; and below, the current fire station constructed in the 1970s.