Bicentennial Snapshot No.36: Centennial Celebration of North Greece and Ridge Road Fire District

North Greece 100 Years Service Patch
North Greece 100 Years Service Patch
Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years
Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years
Greece Bicentennial 200

Today we are spotlighting the two Greece fire districts that are celebrating their centennial years and they are the North Greece Fire Department and the Greece Ridge/Ridge Road Fire District

Bucket Brigade from Monroe Historical Society

As a rural agricultural community in the 1800s, there was no formal fire brigade or fire department in Greece. Fires were common “in an era when most buildings were made of wood, when candles and fuel lamps provided lighting, and when wood stoves were used for cooking.” Bucket brigades fought fires. Water was taken from whatever source was nearby—streams, lakes, ponds, or cisterns—and a line of men formed to pass the buckets from one man to the next until it reached the fire. It was an ineffective way to fight a fire.

In 1890, John Fetzner of Fetzner Carriage shop and Peter Knipper, owner of the Falls Hotel, (we told you about them in Snapshot 16), imported a chemical fire wagon from France. They stored the fire wagon in a shed on the hotel property next door to Fetzner’s carriage shop making it readily available to serve them and their neighbors. The apparatus was on a wheeled carriage base and had to be pulled by volunteers on foot. A chemical reaction between sulfuric acid and a premixture of sodium bicarbonate in one tank propelled water in the other tank through a hose; it could create a stream of water up to 30 feet high. This is the oldest piece of fire equipment in Greece, and one of the oldest in Monroe County. It is on display in our museum. You can read the full interview on how Society acquired the fire wagon from Bud Steeb by Kay Pollok.

Journey of the Fetzner Knipper Fire Wagon Story an Interview with Bud Steeb
Fetzner-Knipper fire wagon photo by Bill Sauers
Clip 3: Call for Service Map from Future of the Fire Service in Greece Evaluating the Existing Conditions in and Considering Options in the Town of Greece, June, 2020, prepared for: Barnard Fire District, Lake Shore Fire District, North Greece Fire District and Ridge Road Fire District by the Center for Governmental Research
Call for Service Map from Future of the Fire Service in Greece Evaluating the Existing Conditions in and Considering Options in the Town of Greece, June 2020, prepared for Barnard Fire District, Lake Shore Fire District, North Greece Fire District, and Ridge Road Fire District by the Center for Governmental Research

The Town of Greece does not have a centralized fire department; there’s no GFD on the back of our firefighters’ turnout coats. Rather the town is served by four separate fire districts: North Greece, Ridge Road (once called Greece Ridge), Barnard, and Lakeshore. North Greece and Ridge Road (once called Greece Ridge) have three stations, Lakeshore had three stations but decommissioned the station near in Braddock Bay Heights area, and Barnard has only one, which makes nine total in the town. Some calls may receive mutual aid from other fire districts they are Hilton, Spencerport/Odgen Fire, Gates Fire, and the City of Rochester, depending on the type of assistance that is needed.

North Greece Fire District

North Greece 100 Years Service Patch
North Greece 100 Years Service Patch

Founded June 1922

In June 1922 the Carriage and Blacksmith shop once owned by Lewis Combs became North Greece Fire District's first firehouse and the town’s first fire station and their…

North Greece Fire Station, 1926
North Greece fire department testing Pierce Arrow truck, circa 1928, from the Office of the Town Historian

…Pierce-Arrow truck was the first motorized fire truck in the Town of Greece. This is their centennial anniversary.

In 1958, North Greece added a second Station on Latta Rd at Mt. Read Boulevard. Up until the mid-1980s, the fire district had an all-volunteer force.

Dedication ad from the Greece Press, July 24, 1958
Station 1, the 1960s, the Office of the Town Historian

The North Greece Fire District Headquarters were moved from Station 1 at North Greece and Latta to Station 2 at Latta and Mount Read in 1970.

In 1983, a third station was opened on English Road.

North Greece Fire District Station 3
North Greece Fire District Station 1 North Greece and Latta Roads, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers

Encompassing more than 27 miles, today, the North Greece Fire District serves the largest geographic area in the town and a population of about 41,000. As of January 2020, the district had 45 career firefighters and 33 volunteers.

Between 2016 and 2018 they responded to an average of 3,539 calls per year; 62 percent were EMS-related. [1]

Fire at Harris Dairy Farm, English Road, 1938, from the Office of the Town Historian
North Greece Fire District Headquarters, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers

In 2019, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rated the North Greece Fire District at a 2 which places it in the top 3% of fire departments in New York State.

Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District

Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years
Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years

August 3, 1922

The Greece Ridge Fire Department, now Ridge Road Fire District, was established on August 3, 1922. It was first located at 2550 Ridge Road West, the northwest corner of Long Pond Road and Ridge Road. The building was shared with three businesses on the upper floor: H. A. Herrick Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor, J.V. Gallagher Realtor Real Estate Insurance, and A.R. Koerner Contractor Builder. At the back of the site was Buchman’s Dairy then a Walgreens and now an Orvilles Appliance store.

First Greece-Ridge Fire Station at 2550 Ridge Road West, circa 1924, courtesy of Bill Sauers
RRFD fighting a fire at Fetzner’s Garage, 1969, from ridgefire.org

By the way, Peter Knipper and John Fetzner also helped found this department.

Like North Greece, the Ridge Road Fire District is celebrating its centennial.

Long Pond Road sign, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers
Long Pond Road sign, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers
Helmet of A.R. Koerner - 2015.03.01
Helmet of A.R. Koerner - 2015.03.01

In 1922, A. R. Koerner besides being a building contractor became the first Fire Chief of the Greece Ridge Fire Department (Ridge Road Fire District). He served as Chief from 1922 to 1939, encompassing three different town administrations: Frank J. Mitchell from 1922-1927, William F. Schmitt from 1928 - 1933, and finally Gordon A. Howe from 1934-1939. Gordon A Howe was the Town Supervisor from 1934 to 1960. A.R. Koerner's chief helmet was received into our collection in 2015 and has been on display since with the chemical fire wagon that is pictured at the beginning of this snapshot.

Like North Greece, Greece Ridge started with a Pierce-Arrow fire truck which was built in Buffalo, NY.

1st motorized apparatus 1924 Pierce Arrow pumper
1st motorized apparatus 1924 Pierce Arrow pumper
Amelia & Frank Siebert, courtesy Kathy Gray via Facebook

In 1930 Frank Siebert, a co-founder, and volunteer with the department became the district’s first paid firefighter. The firehouse was remodeled and included an apartment for Siebert and his wife and children.

Amelia & Frank Siebert (Kathy's Great-Grandparents) with Jack - Kathy Gray's Father, courtesy Kathy Gray via Facebook
Firefighters are pictured here in front of the 1922 Pierce Arrow pumper, celebrating their 3rd Annual Field Day. The Greece Ridge Fire Department was incorporated on August 3, 1922. The first firehouse opened in 1924 on the corner of Ridge Road and Long Pond Road. Office of the Town Historian.

He was on duty 24 hours a day, with about 8 hours off per week. He was assistant chief and later chief commanding volunteer operations during fires.  He and his wife continued to reside at that apartment above the station at least until 1953 and most likely until his retirement in 1959 at the age of 79. Frank and A.R. Koerner are in this picture to the left but without notes, on this picture, we are not sure who is all in this picture.

As the population of Greece soared, so did the demands on the department. A new firehouse was opened in 1962 at 1299 Long Pond Road. It is the district’s Headquarters. Today the district serves a population of 27,000 in an area of just under 14 square miles.

Ridge Road Fire Station, 1299 Long Pond Road, 1967, courtesy Bill Sauers
Stoneridge Station, 2020, photo by Bill Sauers

The Stoneridge Station (Station #2) was opened in 1971 and was renovated in 2001, while

Headquarters of Ridge Road Fire District
third district station at 2300 Ridgeway Avenue opened in 2007 - Matthew Pillsbury, RRFD Historian

The third district station at 2300 Ridgeway Avenue opened in 2007.

Quint 250 parked outside at Ridge Road Station #3 on Ridgeway Ave

A hallmark tradition of the Ridge Road Fire Department, begun in 1935, is that their fire trucks are white rather than the traditional red or even yellow.

Frank Siebert and the Volkmars, Democrat and Chronicle, October 8, 1962, photo by Gordon Massecar

It is often a family affair for Greece residents who answer the call to fight fires as it was for this Greece Ridge family. At the dedication of the new firehouse in 1962, three-year-old Stephen Volkmar receives a salute from his father Chief at the time John Volkmar, his grandfather, former chief Alfred Volkmar, and his great-grandfather, none other than Frank Siebert. Although the Ridge Road fire district started as a volunteer company, today it does not have any active volunteer firefighters and has not had any for the last 20 years.

You can read more about the Volkmars as well as the Fetzner and Knipper families in the Society’s Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece available in the gift shop.

Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece by Marie Poinan, and Joann Ward Synder

In 1947, Ridge Road responded to 52 alarms; in 1959 it answered 126 alarms. Between 2016 and 2018, the district had an average per year of 7,390 calls for service, 68% of which were EMS calls. [1]

RRFD is the only one of the four districts in Greece and one of three in New York state to be accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, CFAI. The District first achieved accreditation in 2005, and again in 2010, 2015, and 2020. In 2017 it also received a rating of 2, from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) which places it in the top 3% of fire departments in New York State.

With all the training and resources that these firefighters do on a daily basis from doing routine inspections of fire systems in every business, drills, learning new techniques to battle fires, rescuing you from a motor vehicle accident, providing assistance to medical facilities for lift assist and other services they provide, could not prepare them to save ten guests at the Holiday Inn on West Ridge Road, from the town's deadliest fire at the Holiday Inn in 1978 even though the hotel had some of the fire prevention systems in place and yet it failed and Ridge Road Fire District had the equipment to fight the fire and resources to rescue the guest from the hotel and fire companies within a 6-mile radius of the hotel came to assist Ridge Road Fire District to get the fire under control, we will dig a little deeper next week into the Holiday Inn Fire.

We at the Greece Historical Society & Museum would like to congratulate the Ridge Road and North Greece Fire Departments on Celebrating their Centennial anniversary.

Thank you for joining us today.

Citations

[1] source from Future of the Fire Service in Greece Evaluating the Existing Conditions in and Considering Options in the Town of Greece June, 2020, https://www.cgr.org/greece-fire/docs/GreeceFireStudyBaselineOptions.pdf

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 11 – The Ridge Part 1

This week we turn our attention to the central commercial district in the town most of you know as

The Ridge.

The Ridge today Satellite view via google maps

We at the Greece Historical society bet that most if not, every person in the town of Greece has at least one point in their daily life been to some part of the Ridge, could be to the Mall at Greece Ridge formally Long Ridge Mall and Greece Towne Mall, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Wegmans, or the number of other shops and stores along the Ridge.

According to the Diary of Eli Granger whose dairy we share a bit from in the King’s Landing snapshot, he wrote this entry in his diary about the ridge and why he thought it would be a handsome ridge for a road

[1 June 1797] came home on a handsom Ridge suitable for a Roade — got home on Monday 29th May after Spending 14 days 3 of us — 42 days in whole — my Expence for pilott — 8 dollars for Expence at Niagary for pilote &c — 2 dolars — other Expence — $3.90

Diary of Eli Granger https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/4044

Those who may not remember earth science class or other science classes and parts of some history classes when they talked about the Ice Age and how most of the region was covered in ice and glacial valley, also called glacial trough as seen in this map. Almost 13,000 years ago a large glacial lake, Lake Iroquois, as it is called by geologists, lapped the far eastern portion of what became the Niagara escarpment.  When the waters of Lake Iroquois receded, it left a ridge of land 400 feet above sea level.  You can see on this map, the dimensions of the prehistoric lake in relation to Lake Ontario today.

Map of Lake Iroquois

Notice the line in Red that is the portion of Ridge Road from the Genesee River to Lewiston. , the /// lines going from lower left to upper right that is the outline of Lake Iroquois, the cross lines ### in the pen are the ice sheet as the ice continued to recede north as the time when on from the ice age.

Those that got to go to the town hall before its move to its new location down Long Pond Road where it is now got to see a sign on the ridge letting people know that Ridge road was molded by glaciers, well-traveled Haudenosaunee trail, then was traversed by ox-carts, stagecoaches, and covered wagons, and became one of two main town centers until the city annexed the village of Charlotte in 1916.

How much do you think it cost now to start a road like the Ridge, back then in 1813 New York State appropriated $5,000 for construction work that cost would be only $90,346.56 this was mainly to cut down trees and build basic bridges over streams this does not include the veteran’s bridge over the Genesee River, Mount Read bridge, and the bridge at Ridge and I-390/NY-390. Those bridges would be built during Part 2 of the Ridge which will be next week.

We cover more on the Rowe Tavern in our look into the neighborhoods of Greece, which will be called ADA (Ridge) note that this is the only neighborhood that uses the ridge in its title.

Falls Hotel / Rowe Tavern
Stone Tavern

Travelers often stopped for the night at one of the two-story taverns along the Ridge, such as the Stone Tavern, or the Rowe Tavern.

Stage Coach Loaded with passengers
 in the 1860s from the Office of the Town Historian

Even though Railroads and by the time these taverns were open for business most of the transportation to these establishments was by stagecoach, and as many as twelve people might be stuffed inside the coach, but that was perhaps better than having to ride outside and be subjected to all kinds of weather that mother nature could unleash during this time period.

There were a number of small general stores that a lot of the early pioneers shopped at for daily goods and items they needed for daily living. Like Anderson General Store located at the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Mitchell Road and Gilbert C. Wagg’s emporium at Ridge Road and Pullman Ave, these two General stores as well as a well known general store in the North Greece Area at Latta and North Greece Road will be featured in the bicentennial snapshot number 14 all about these general stores. Also, you can check out this article from October 2017, Corinthian called “A Tale of Two General Stores From Apples to Zithers” by Alan Muller

As for the Nursury businesses, this was where Asa Rowe, the Lay Farm, the Ver Hulst Farm, and smaller farms operated from but most notably was Asa, and the Lay Farm. In 1826, Asa Rowe established the first nursery business in Monroe County when he opened the MONROE GARDEN AND NURSERY on the north side of Ridge Road near where today, Mitchell, Long Pond, and Ridge Roads intersect. He offered a large selection of “fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbous roots, and green-house plants.” The opening of the Erie Canal made transportation fast and cheap and his nursery business thrived.

The Lay Farm, which later became the Ver Hulst Farm, now sits Bob Johnson’s Chevrolet.

Anderson General Store is located at the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Mitchell Road. circa 1912
 Gilbert C. Wagg’s emporium
Gilbert C. Wagg’s emporium was located at Ridge and Pullman Ave where the Tim Horton’s is now located. and a portion of the smaller shops attached to Wagg’s still stands on Pullman ave as apartments.

How many recognize these two buildings here?

Craig Apartments
David Todd Mansion from History of Monroe County, W. H. McIntosh, 1877
Ridgemont Country Club
Upton Manor from GHS

These are two structures that can be seen on the ridge the first one on the left is the David Todd Mansion which became a small apartment complex and the one on the right is The Upton Manor which is now the site of Ridgemont Country Club. For more information check out this article from our newsletter about the Craig house called The Victorian Survivor on the Ridge by Alan Muller written for the September 2020 issue of the Corinthian.

We wonder how many of you know that George Eastman and Eastman Kodak Company started the first plant for filmmaking not in the City of Rochester but in Greece, New York. In the 1890s, George Eastman decided that 16 and a half acres of farmland in Greece, “out in the country” where there was fresh air, plenty of clean water, and railroad terminals, was ideal for his new film-making plant. He constructed it on the corner at Ridge and Lake across the street from Wagg’s Corner. The Town of Greece would never be the same. But that’s a tale for another episode.

Kodak Park, 1894, Office of the Town Historian
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