November 27, 2021

Museum plans site to display fire trucks

Image provided by Cortland County Planning Department

This is an artist’s rendering of an addition to the Central New York Living History Center on Route 11 in Cortlandville to include antique fire trucks. The plan goes before the county Planning Board on Wednesday.

The CNY Living History Center has submitted a proposal to the Cortland County Planning Board to build a 40-foot by 80-foot two-story building that resembles an old fire station to house antique fire trucks and other memorabilia.

The proposed building, which the planning board will consider on Wednesday, would include a 10- by 10-foot fire bell tower.

Mahlon Irish Jr., Homer fire chief and an avid collector of antique fire trucks and equipment, said the bell for the potential tower is from his collection of firefighter memorabilia.

A 4-foot by 40-foot roof overhang on the front of the building is part of it, as well.

Inside, the display could potentially include a slew of antique fire trucks, a pole, a fire alarm system and other memorabilia.

“Those types (of memorabilia) are things I’m looking to commit to putting in (the display),” Irish said.

Three antique fire trucks are already on display at the museum. Those trucks may move into the new display area, and Irish is looking to donate a few vehicles from his collection of 19, but said he’s “not sure how many trucks yet.”

According to the proposal in the planning board meeting agenda, the addition would be on the south end of the existing center on what is now a paved area and some green space.

The county planning board would make a recommendation to the town of Cortlandville, which would decide whether to grant the final approval.

Cindy Stoker, executive director of the center, said plans for the project are still preliminary.

The overall cost, date of completion of construction and when it’ll be open to the public are yet to be determined.

“We just hope the county goes through with this proposal,” Stoker said.

Irish said there have been proposed plans for the display since the mid-2000s.

“It’s always been part of the plan,” he said. “Hopefully everything goes well this time around.”

“We’ve held on to these (memorabilia and fire trucks) for a while,” he said. “There is so much fire history in Cortland County by itself. We have things hanging around our houses and things people have bought in the past, and it’s not where the community can see it. This display will give us an opportunity to do so.”

Cortland Fire Chief Wayne Friedman has known about past plans, too. He said displaying antique local equipment and apparatus of fire service in the county “is a great opportunity” for the community to see history.

“Any historic operation that shows history of service is always a benefit for an educational piece,” he said.

“We’ll do what we can” to provide memorabilia for the display, if needed and requested by the museum, Friedman said. “The fire service nationwide, not just in our service, is an honor and a privilege. It’s always better to talk about it than leave the equipment in a closet or something.”