Princeton considers auction of firehouse

13 August, 1991

Princeton considers auction of firehouse

Not included: 60 years of memories

By Patti Wieser
Staff Writer

In the Chambers Street Fire-house, an old upright piano rests in a basement corner by the mirrored bar, and a few water stains creep downward from the ceiling.

On a table — safe from any seepage — lay a pile of dated black-and-white photos that have been pulled from various walls throughout the building. The firehouse, whose 60 years of memories are told through the old framed pictures, is expected to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, possibly as early as this tall.

Last week, Princeton Borough officials discussed selling the Chambers Street building at a public auction. They are expected to. continue their deliberations tonight at the Borough Council meeting.

The facility, which is owned by the borough, is being replaced by a joint Princeton Borough and Princeton Township firehouse on Witherspoon Street. The new firehouse is currently under construction and should be completed by early next year.

Once the plan for the sale is finalized, borough officials say they will meet with their counterparts from the township to seek approval of the plan. The borough holds the title to the building, bur the fire department is a joint borough-township entity.

The details include when to have the auction and what minimum bid would be established. Borough officials discussed scheduling an auction either this fall or in the spring, and accepting a minimum of $1.2 million for the building.

Borough Attorney Michael Herbert drafted an auction notice. which council menthols also discussed.

Mayor Marvin Reed said Monday the notice is the way in which the council would legally advents the auction of the property.

Mayor Reed said the borough still has the option of considering a lease arrangement. but officials have indicated they will probably sell the property.

He noted that the township is anxious to get the funds for the new firehouse. The $1.2 million would be applied to the costs of constructing the new firehouse. Any remaining costs or profits from the sale would he divided between the township and the borough on a ratable basis, which is approximately 64 percent and 36 percent. Mayor Reed said.

Councilman Mark Freda said last week there have been “non-stop inquiries’ about the firehouse since officials announced it would he sold.

Mayor Reed noted that local, as well as out-of-town, prospective buyers have expressed interest in transforming the firehouse to an office building, stores and a restaurant.

The building is in the central business district and in the Central Historic Overlay District. As officials firm up their plans for the old firehouse. nostalgia set in among firefighters who have used the Chambers Street facility.

On Monday, three firehouse trustees ambled through the two-story building.

Throughout their tour — which ended by looking over the stack of framed photographs in the basement — reminiscences tumbled out like hoses off firetruck.

“We’ve had sonic good banquets up here,” said trustee Robert Donald as he looked around the building.

Fellow trustee Robert Mooney pulled out a photo of his dad. John A.. who had been on the firehouse’s swim team in 1923. That was when the fire department was in the building across the street on Chambers Street.

Trustee Larry Dupraz handled a picture of a 1951 party, which took place on the apparatus flour at the firehouse.

“This is the year 1 came in,” he said, fondly looking over the group at the party.

Glimpsing around, the trio ,of trustees pointed out items — “those lanterns over the fireplace are from on old firetruck, probably horse-drawn” and that table was moved in when (the department) first moved here.”

Mr. Dupraz remembered when a group threw a piano out of the second floor “because it didn’t work anymore.”

“There are a lot of stories,” said Mr. Mooney, who has been with the department for nearly half a century.

The firemen proudly recalled the history of the fire garage and the department. and expressed concern over coverage when the facility changes locations.

“My biggest worry when we move is the southwest urea of town will not be as well protected,” said Mr. Dupraz.

He said the new firehouse will he farther away, and it would take the firefighters longer to reach a blaze in the southwest section of Princeton.

Mr. Donald said when the department moves, he will most miss the tradition culled over the decades at the Chambers Street Firehouse. He has been a member of the department for 37 years.

Added Mr. Dupraz, who has been there for 40 years, “There’s a lot of tradition in this house — a lot of it.”

Staff photos by Mark Cajkowski

Engine Company No. 3 trustee Robert Mooney (left), Larry Dupraz and Robert Donald reminisce during thier tour of the Chambers Streets firehouse Monday.

The 60-year-old Chambers Street firehouse is expected to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, possibly as early as this fall.

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