By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — After a year of renovations, work is nearly complete on the town’s new firefighting museum.
Renovations at the 107-year-old Hose House 2 on Bridge Street are scheduled to be finished this fall, according to Henry LaBranche. It would open to the public next spring, he said.
LaBranche, who served as Salem’s town manager and recently retired as the superintendent of Windham and Pelham schools, is the head of a committee dedicated to giving the former fire station a major makeover.
“We’re moving along,” LaBranche said yesterday. “We’re hoping to finish in October. We want to button it up before the winter season.”
Work on the $100,000 project began last summer as the eight-member committee of volunteers sought to revitalize the vacant, two-story clapboard-and-stone building that once housed horse-drawn fire pumpers.
It was most recently used to store lawnmowers and other equipment for the Public Works Department.
The exterior has been completed, including painting and the replacement of windows, LaBranche said. Large double doors were put in last week, he said.
The building also has a new cupola and a fire bell. The original bell disappeared years ago. A granite lamppost will be installed as well, LaBranche said.
The interior upgrades include new flooring, wiring and a coat of paint, LaBranche said. Old plumbing fixtures must still be removed because they are no longer needed, he said.
Committee member Susan Covey said it will be a relief when the renovations are complete. The group, including Salem Historical Society president Howard Glynn and his wife, Beverly, is starting to plan how it will display the firefighting equipment now kept at the town museum, she said.
“It’s exciting to see it all come together,” Covey said.
The project has been 30 years in the making, according to fire Chief Kevin Breen. He said the project was first proposed in the 1980s, but the town never wanted to allocate money for the work.
It’s been at least 60 years since the building was last used by the fire department, Breen said. At one point, there were police holding cells in the basement.
The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places , was full of outdated firefighting equipment and old department records when it was cleaned out last summer. The records were from the 1950s.
Some of the items will be put on display in the museum, but much of it was in poor condition and not worth saving, Breen said.
The project is being funded through donations and money remaining from the Salem Depot restoration project. More than $60,000 has been raised, but roughly $20,000 is still needed, LaBranche said.
Charity poker fundraisers at Rockingham Park have raised $35,000 for the project, LaBranche said.
Members of the community and local businesses, including banks, have stepped forward to contribute, he said.
The building will be open to tours like others in the Salem Common Historic District.
To donate to the project, contact Covey at 894-5631.