"Modern Fire Fighting Equipment" and "Pioneer Fire Fighting"
In 1938 Carl E. Noble completed six oil-on-canvas murals depicting the history of firefighting for the Hempstead Volunteer Fire Department’s Southside Hose Co. No. 2. The murals wrap around the company’s second-floor meeting room. Noble painted the murals for the Hempstead Fire Department under the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The titles of the six murals are: Pioneer Fire Fighting, Old Time Fire Gong, First Hempstead Hose Cart, Hempstead Riding Academy Fire, and Modern Fire Fighting Equipment (2 murals). The murals, while not generally accessible to the public, are still intact.
The Long Island Historical Journal recounts that “[t]he members of the company spent a year preparing the walls of their second floor meeting room for them.” As for the murals’ dimensions, the Journal remarks that they “…extend from about four feet off the floor to the ceiling and cover all the walls above the paneled dado, including spaces above the door, windows, and archway.” The Journal goes on to describe the murals in the following way: “[The] first panel, Pioneer Fire Fighting, features a man at a water pump and two children with buckets, with a 1790s gooseneck engine in the background. A barn is on fire in the next panel. Hempstead acquired their Engine No. 1 from a Brooklyn fire company in 1832 and used it for more than three decades. In the twentieth century, it was proudly drawn in parades and exhibited in a New York City museum. Another mural, Old Time Fire Gong, has a man hitting the round metal gong with a hammer to summon others to a fire and, on the side, a sign post pointing to nearby communities. The First Hempstead Hose Cart mural depicts four men pulling an elegant vehicle still owned by the department. On the left side of the door, a mural shows the Front Street fire which destroyed five stores in the business district in 1915. A red Ford Chemical automobile is featured, which is another vehicle still owned by the department and used in parades. The speed with which motorized engines from Freeport and Mineola arrived to assist in fighting this fire convinced the village to secure modern equipment. On the other side of the door is the Hempstead Riding Academy Fire mural. It portrays a c. 1920 fire in the horse stables with the department’s floodlight truck illuminating the scene. All the horses died in the fire and the artist depicts them ascending into heaven. The two largest murals, Modern Fire Fighting, feature men fighting a fire and several fire engines from the 1930s. The artist used men from the Southside company as models, and the company proudly displays a nozzle and lantern which appear in the mural.”
Personal visit by Evan Kalish, Aug. 2018
Project originally submitted by Glenna Anton on July 5, 2017.
Additional contributions by Evan Kalish.
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