Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Phoenix Fire House

Mr. Waters' commissions continued with homes, commercial structures, churches, schools and in the summer of 1871 the Phoenix Fire House on Main Street just north of Merritt Avenue. As you will learn this was a most appropriate name for the building.  The city of Oshkosh was sensitive to the thereat of fire, having experienced two divesting conflagrations in 1859 and 1866.  The summer of 1874 was hot, dry and windy.  There were two fires that summer one in early May and another on the afternoon of July 14, at about 3 pm.. 
A fire broke out in a barn near the corner of Main and Church.  Pushed by southwest winds the fire scorched a wide swath toward the northeast, the Phoenix Station lay in it's path and didn't escape the flames and could not be saved.  By the next day the fire was out and the damage assessed; all that remained the the Phoenix Engine House was the front wall and tower.  The Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of August 6, 1874 reported on the city council meeting and the decision to rebuild the brigade's station on Main Street.  At a subsequent meeting it was moved by Alderman Stringham to preserve what remained of the front wall and tower, and so it was that the Phoenix Fire House rose from it's own ashes. 

For the decades that followed the rebuilt Phoenix served the city well but was decommissioned in 1915. 
The building was purchased by Henry Roeder and used as auto and machine repair shop, by 1922 it housed the Oshkosh Oakland Agency.   The top of the tower was removed and a display window replaced the doors but little else changed on the exterior of the old fire house.  It continued as a retail space until the late 1960's when it was demolished to make a parking lot.     

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