June 24, 2018
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‘Leprechauns’ to assist with Calais firehouse restoration

Sharon Kiley Mack | BDN
Sharon Kiley Mack | BDN
The St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse hose tower in Calais is seen in July 2010.
By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — A seven-year fundraising effort to restore the St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse continues with a bit of blarney over the coming St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

For a mere $5, what Vicki Farrell describes as “a hardy group of 11 women and one secure male” will dress up as leprechauns to deliver “Shamrock O’Grams,” replete with jigging and singing on St. Paddy’s Day Eve, Friday, March 16.

Those on the receiving end will be presented with a greeting card, a recitation of an Irish-themed poem, a green corsage and chocolate coins from a pot o’ gold.

“We’re not going to make a lot at $5, but there may be some people who will pay more than that just to make us go away,” Farrell said Tuesday. “It should be fun.”

Built in 1874, the brick firehouse that sits just east of the Calais City Hall on Church Street hasn’t housed a fire brigade in 30 years. The city uses the building as a polling place and, once the restoration is complete, intends to make it available as a meeting hall that Farrell said can seat up to 150 people. The building recently was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

It has required countless hot dog sales, yard sales, bowlathons and other events to come up with the funds required to restore the firehouse. Fundraising for the project is a continuous affair, and those backing the project try to have a different event every month. Funds raised through the St. Patrick’s Day effort will be used to buy replacement windows.

Farrell said the project was able to attract a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant and has been supplemented with at least $80,000 in funds raised so far within the community. Local contractors have donated tens of thousands of dollars worth of work restoring the furnace, digging drainage trenches, repointing the bricks, rewiring the electrical service and creating and maintaining a website and Facebook page.

Students from the St. Croix Regional Technical Center rebuilt the stairs and bulkhead. A nearby day care facility saved pennies and donated $200. An anonymous donor wrote a check for $3,000. Taylor’s Appliances donated a stove for the firehouse kitchen, and Marden’s followed suit with the donation of a refrigerator. The Calais Rotary donated a large grill.

The firehouse was built to accommodate two horse-drawn steam fire engines. The horses were replaced in the early 1920s, and the entire building was abandoned in 1970, when a new public safety complex was created on North Street. The Happy Gang Senior Citizens group used the fire station as a meeting place until 2003, when upkeep became cost-prohibitive.

Farrell said the building one day will serve as a museum as well as a gathering place. Many of the original items from the firehouse — the brass sliding pole, fire buckets, uniforms, antique hanging lights and the original flagpole — have already been collected. Also to be exhibited are two vintage firetrucks, a 1916 Mack and a 1926 Mack pumper.

Farrell said those wanting to place orders for a Shamrock O’Gram or to learn more about the fundraising effort for the firehouse should call 454-2305 or 454-7624.

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