Two Calais yard sales help firehouse restoration effort

Posted Sept. 28, 2008, at 10:24 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6 a.m.

CALAIS, Maine — One person’s junk is another person’s jewels. So that is why on Saturday people traveled in a downpour to two gigantic indoor yard sales in search of that rare painting, antique vase or better yet, some “down-home” apple pie.

It was all for some good causes — to raise money for the St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse and for the building and operating fund at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.

The employees of Acrobat Research on North Street put on the firehouse yard sale. Canadian-based Acrobat Research, a market research data collection firm, was established in 1994.

The firehouse project was begun several years ago by a group of enthusiastic people who formed the firehouse restoration committee.

Built in 1874, the building at one time was home to the Happy Gang senior citizens group. Over the years, the group used the building to hold meetings and social events. Years ago, it turned the building over to the city. The St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse Committee stepped in to save it.

The building that sits next to the city building has a rich history, but even with the efforts of its former owners, it has fallen into disrepair. In addition to its historical importance, the 4,250-square-foot building offers the largest handicapped-accessible public meeting room of its kind in the downtown.

Last year, the committee kicked off a major capital campaign to raise $400,000 to turn an aging and broken building into a first-class museum. “This is a very, very bad time to do a capital campaign with the economy [the way it is],” Barnard said Saturday.

And money is needed.

He said the committee was applying for two grants — for $100,000 and $350,000. “If we could land either or the $350,000, [it] would complete the outside of the project. Then we could take it a room at a time and do it with all volunteer work on the inside,” he said.

Once the work is completed, exhibits will be installed and the original brass fire pole firefighters used to zoom down on their way to fires will be put back in place. Two vintage antique firetrucks, a 1917 and a 1926 Mack, will be on display along with other firefighting memorabilia.

The effort to save the building began more than two years ago with Barnard, a Calais firefighter. He sounded the alarm that unless something was done, the red brick building on Church Street soon would be beyond repair.

Renovations so far have focused on the hose tower. Firefighters used to pull the hoses high into the tower to dry. The structure at one time held the bell used to call firefighters to the station. Soon the bell will be restored to its rightful place.

Barnard said work on the belfry and bell tower was nearly complete. “It’s just a matter of getting suitable galvanized metal to encapsulate it and preserve it for the future and get it back on the building,” he said.

The committee’s goal is to have it in place in time for the city’s 200th anniversary next year. “We will have a bell-ringing ceremony,” he said.

Barnard said he was grateful to all who have helped support the project including employees of Acrobat Research who put on the yard sale Saturday.

While people were strolling past tables on North Street for the firehouse, members of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church on Church Street were holding their own indoor yard and bake sale and serving two delicious meals — breakfast and lunch.

Roaming among the tables, people were buying homemade apple pies as well as cakes, cookies and candied apples.

Next week, the church is holding a bridal tea featuring historic wedding dresses, one of which dates to 1933.

The event will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4.

“We are going to have memorabilia from the early 1900s through last weekend when our niece was married,” church member Patsy Beckett said Saturday. “And [the items] will be from all parishes … We have probably a couple dozen wedding gowns, photo albums, cake tops, invitations and bouquets.”

There will be sandwiches, coffee, tea and wedding cake. Admission is $10.

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