Thursday, March 14, 2013

Central Engine House

The Central Engine House still stands at 202 Court Street, next to the Central Fire Station. The 150-year-old building is on the south side of Court Street, between the intersections with Fleet Street and Church Street, and across Court Street from the rear of the Stone Church.

Portsmouth purchased a horse-drawn hook and ladder carriage in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, for around $650. The new appliance was a long, four-wheeled wagon pulled by two horses. 

That same year, the fire department built the Central Engine House to accommodate its new hook & ladder carriage, several fire engine companies, and their horses. The new fire house was located just east of the Old County Court House and cost the city $3,558.81 to construct. 

 The old photographs to the right are of Portsmouth's most famous firefighting apparatus, Kearsarge Steam Engine #3.

The third steam fire engine in town arrived in June 1870. Probably housed at the Central Engine House on Court Street, Kearsarge #3 served Portsmouth for over fifty years.  

During the "Great Boston Fire of 1872", the pumper and forty Portsmouth firefighters traveled to Boston by rail. Kearsarge #3 helped stop the inferno and is credited with saving the Old South Meeting House.
The Portsmouth Fire Department recently purchased the famed steam engine and refurbished it. An account can be found on

The old photograph below appeared in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The Old County Court House is in the foreground, with a glimpse of the Central Engine House to the left.

During 1919, Portsmouth devoted $85,000 for the construction of a new Central Fire Station to replace the Central Engine House. The location they selected was the lot of the Old County Court House, right next door to the Central Engine House on Court Street. The cornerstone was laid in 1919.

The Central Engine House has been occupied by the Baker & Wright Auto Electric Service ever since the new fire station opened in 1920.

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