Newton Fire Museum
Over 175 Years of Fire Service History
35 years of contributions to our community
For nearly 35 years, the Newton Fire Museum has showcased many treasures from our community’s history. Located in the historic Spring Street Firehouse, our collection includes fascinating firefighting equipment dating back to the days when horses were used to pull the apparatus.
In the past few years, the Fire Museum was asked by local merchants to make some big improvements – to expand our operating hours, become more involved in community events, and position ourselves as a destination for tourists visiting our area. In response, the Newton Fire Department made a big commitment to making that concept a reality.
We started by doing a top to bottom reorganization and changing the way we display our collection. We created a paid attendant program so we could provide steady operating hours. As a result, the number of museum visitors increased significantly from previous years. Neighboring merchants benefited since many of our visitors stayed to shop along the street. For that reason, those merchants became the biggest supporters of our program.
We also increased our collection by the addition of our 1948 Mack fire engine. Our accomplishments were only made possible because of the many local residents and merchants who support the museum and believe in its value to the town. The Newton Fire Department remains committed to building upon our successes and taking our museum to the next level.
Looking toward the future, our committee recently attended a conference in New York City which consisted of representatives from Fire Museums all over the country who are successfully attracting thousands of visitors to their towns every year. We brought home lots of new ideas and the realization that their success can be replicated right here in Newton. Our key location in the downtown business district means our successes can support the successes of our neighbors.
Fire Museum in Peril
Recently, deteriorating masonry and other structural issues have given rise to serious safety concerns which forced our museum to close its doors. The Newton Town Council had originally committed to making the necessary repairs to the historic structure. After the discovery of a 20,000+ gallon cistern under the building, however, the additional cost of the repairs caused the future of the museum to become uncertain. The Newton Town Council has explored many options for the future of the museum, including:
- Repair of the structural deficiencies, enabling the museum to reopen
- Preserving the front facade of the building while replacing the remainder of the building with a newly constructed prefabricated building
- Auctioning the property, and creating an addition to Firehouse #2 to house the museum on Lawnwood Avenue
- Auctioning the property, and creating an addition to Firehouse #3 to house the museum on Stuart Street
While there has been much debating on the merits of each option, no decision has yet been made regarding the future of the fire museum.
What’s at stake?
If the Town decided to sell the building, it would likely be sold at public auction.
It seems obvious that selling a structurally deficient building in a depressed real estate market will only bring the Town a bottom dollar selling price and small tax revenue. The intrinsic value of what we’ll lose in exchange is priceless.
If the Town were to sell the building, we would be losing much more than an important historic and educational asset. As the only municipally-owned building in the downtown shopping district, a variety of community groups use the building's utilities for community events. The electrical outlets are regularly used for events such as Taste of Newton and Newton Day. The water spigots are used by the Chamber of Commerce to water the flower baskets and by the DPW to power-wash sidewalks. Our sidewalk apron hosts the band on sidewalk sale days, the reviewing stand at our parades, and pictures with Santa during the holidays.
The museum is located right at the midway of Sussex County's downtown. The mere presence of a museum on the street provides for tougher penalties for drug distribution that occurs within a certain proximity to our building. That radius encompasses almost the entire street and benefits all of our residents. We need to find another solution.
This can’t be narrowly viewed as a traditional real estate transaction. The museum’s historic value coupled with its important role in the revitalization of our downtown holds much more value to our citizens than the cost of the repairs.
Here's our plan
The Town Council has intimated that the overall project cost is the lead determining factor in deciding whether to preserve this building or pursue other options. During their deliberations, they have repeatedly cited the Town's obligations to pay hired contractors prevailing wage as one of the largest factors inflating the costs of the rehabilitation project.
The Newton Fire Museum committee proposes an alternative - a community project driven by donated labor and materials - to achieve the desired results with minimal reliance on municipal funds. We've already enlisted the aid of community resources such as Team Depot along with several local contractors willing to volunteer their time and expertise, but we need a commitment from the Town of Newton to pursue this project and make this concept a reality. By using volunteer labor and donated materials, the Town stands to realize significant savings from the original projected costs.
What we ask of the Town
There are some parts of the project that could not be completed by volunteers until the basic structural integrity of the building is restored. For that reason, we're asking the Town of Newton to restore the exterior of the building, repair any structural issues in the interior that may jeopardize the safety of our volunteers, and to fill the cistern in the basement of the building. Once the building is stabilized, the community project to renovate the interior could commence.
How you can help
Make a donation
As a 501c(3) charitable organization, the Newton Fire Museum, Inc. depends on donations from the community to survive. Donations may be sent to:
Newton Fire Museum
150 Spring Street
Newton, N.J. 07860-2009
Or, donate using a credit card via paypal...
The Newton Fire Museum, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and your contribution is tax deductable as allowed by law. Please make checks payable to the Newton Fire Museum.
NFM in the News...
Aglow at Newton's Fire Museum
Reprinted with permission from The Sussex County Journal - July 2011
Mischief Making 'ghost' prowls Fire Museum
New Jersey Herald - October 31, 2010
Newton Fire Museum Receives 3D Art Donation
NFM Press Release - April 7, 2009
Newton Fire Museum - Third Paranormal Investigation
Eastern States Paranormal - February 7, 2009
Mysterious America - Newton Fire Museum
Backroads Magazine - May 2008
Newton Fire Museum - Second Paranormal Investigation
Eastern States Paranormal - April 19, 2008
Bookshelf Program Assists Fire Museum
New Jersey Herald - March 3, 2008
Newton Fire Museum Receives Conservation Bookshelf
NFM Press Release - February 26, 2008
Newton Fire Museum - Paranormal Investigation
Eastern States Paranormal - October 8, 2007