Hinsdale – located at the very southwestern corner of New Hampshire – was once a manufacturing hub for paper, woolens, and machinery. This development along the banks of the Ashuelot River prompted the town to invest in fire fighting services by the 1850s – including the construction of the Hope Engine Company Number 1 station. This small post and beam building housed horses, hoses, and ladders that could be called upon to contain the fires that threatened mills and foundries downtown. To raise funds for their work, the Hope Engine Company hosted dances and firemen’s competitions.
The rest of the story is something with which we’re all familiar. Changing technology rendered the small engine house obsolete by the 1900s and it was eventually turned into tire storage for an adjacent automotive garage. But somehow it survived.
Enter Donna Suskawicz, who had returned to her hometown a few years ago. Over lunch one day, someone told her that this former engine house would be demolished if a plan couldn’t be developed to save it. Her friends, however, were about to leave for Florida or were too busy to save it themselves. And so, Donna developed a plan to save it. With help from the owner, Michael Foerster; neighbors; the fire department; and Catlin and Petrovik Architects, the Friends of the Hope Engine Co. No. 1 devised a plan to temporarily relocate the engine house to a different lot on Main Street until further restoration could begin in earnest.
Seven to Save designation will help increase public awareness of this historic building – a building that many people in town did not initially think was worth saving. Its faded and peeling paint, small size, and simple architecture did not lend the appearance of a typical preservation project. Some in town only wanted to save the faded sign on the front which reads, "Hope Engine Co. No. 1." Its lack of maintenance was deceiving, though. As Donna quipped at the Seven to Save announcement, "imagine how we'd all look after 150 years of little maintenance."
The plan for its new use is still in flux, but Donna hopes to see it pay tribute to the town's firefighting history. But that's putting the engine cart before the horse. First, the building must be moved and a new home for it secured on Main Street. Then, restoration on the small building can commence.