WILLIAMSTON -- A unique piece of local history with ties to Williamstown's volunteer fire department could find new life if fundraising efforts allow for it.
An antique fire hose cart, recently removed from a barn on Green River Road, has undergone preliminary studies by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, housed at the Clark's Stone Hill Center. It's one of two carts the J.B. Gale Hose Company would have owned. The cart is largely in its original condition.
"It's so common for objects like this ... to have been heavily restored," said Christine Puza, the assistant conservator of furniture and wood objects. "Sometimes people scrub off old paint and put new bright paint over it. It's such a unique thing to find [the cart] with so much original surface."
According to local historian Michael Miller, newspaper clippings from the North Adams Transcript suggest the cart was most likely purchased from the Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Co. of Cambridge in 1895.
The company became mechanized by the 1920s, and the cart spent many years in resident Maurice Filler's home on the former Mount Hope estate before he donated it back to the company.
The cart, built of wrought iron with hand-shaved wooden spokes, is painted red, green, back and gold. Attached are early tools and solid brass nozzles.
Alex Steele of the fire department said it would have been pulled by a group of at least six people.
"This is the equivalent of today's Engine 2," he said.
Puza said she has done an in-depth examination to assess the cart's condition and some cleaning to examine the surface. She pointed to its ornate decoration, which include gold leaf.
"It shows the role this played in the community. There was a lot of pride toward it," she said.
Funds are needed to continue with the restoration plan Puza has created, which focuses on cleaning and preserving the original surface and includes removing iron corrosion. There are no plans of where it would be stored upon completion.
Steele said the company has yet to establish a fundraising goal, but has already received unsolicited donations.
"It depends how far we want to go," he said.
Retired Fire Chief Edward McGowan is calling on residents who may have old documents to look for references to the cart.
"Any old pictures or newspaper articles will give us a better picture of what fires were actually fought with this cart," he said.
This circa 1895 JB Gale #2 Fireman's Hose Cart which was discovered in a Williamstown barn in 2009 has been dropped off at the Conservation Lab at Stone Hill on the Clark Art Institute Campus for restoration by Christine Puza, assistant conservator of furniture and frames, as well as other objects. The view is looking down on the cart from the two nozzles. (Gillian Jones / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)
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