The existence of the Firemen's Memorial Fountain in Thrall Park is due largely to the efforts of Mr. J. B. Wheeler. The fountain, with its seven foot statue of a uniformed fireman holding a baby in his arm, is symbolic of and dedicated to the Volunteer Firemen of the community.
A site in Phillipsburg Cemetery, on the outskirts of the City, was originally chosen for the memorial, but finally a place in the park was selected so that it might be seen by more people.
In March 1907, the sum of $800.00 was placed in the City tax budget for such a memorial. The appropriation, however, was defeated and Mr. Wheeler, then President of the Common Council, took it upon himself to head a committee to procure the necessary funds by public subscription.
The money for the memorial, as well as an additional $315.00 to install it, was quickly raised. The monument was unveiled October 17, 1907, after a short parade by all companies of the Department. Presentation of the statue to the city was made by Mr. Wheeler. It was accepted on behalf of the city by Mayor Lawrence. The Rev. Mr. Stanard Dow Butler, Chaplain of the Eagles, delivered the dedication address.
The story of the Firemen's Memorial Fountain does not end here, for on September 17, 1937 — 30 years after the memorial was erected — the Common Council donated
a plaque to be attached to the railing enclosing the pool. The plaque stated that the fountain was to serve "as a reminder of our appreciation for the loyal and efficient service of these men for more than 100 years: may it be a constant reminder".
This occasion was celebrated by a Middletown Fire Department parade, the first in six years. Two guest companies, the Dikemans of Goshen and the Florida N.Y. Departments were in line. Ceremonies at the unveiling of the plaque were held in Thrall Park with Mayor Charles C. Chappell making the presentation on behalf of the Council and Fire Chief Francis O'Boyle accepting the gift for the Fire Department. Mr. Wheeler was introduced and, in a short speech, cited the history of the fountain.
During the height of the World War II scrap metal drive, there were some who would consign the Firemen's Memorial, as well as the Civil War Cannon, also located in the Park, to this cause. A debate in the Common Council was ended, we learn from a newspaper account, when Mr. Wheeler reminded the Alderman that neither of these two items belonged to the City. He further advised them that the "Iron Fireman" (which isn't iron but zinc) is the "property in perpetuity of the Volunteer Firemen's Association". However, a newspaper account of the dedication ceremony stated that, "Mr. Wheeler then presented the fountain to the City".
of Public Works also informs us that the City has jurisdiction over any memorial placed on public land.
In August of 2001 the Fire Department was given permission to remove the Firemen's Memorial from Thrall Park to be repaired from age and vandalism.
On September 6, 2002, the Firemen's Memorial was rededicated and placed at Wallace Park, located at the corner of North Street and Depot Street, where it stands today.
Firemen's Memorial Fountain
Middletown, New York
Writer: Charles L. Radzinsky
[Drawings by] Walter F. Blampied Jr.
In honor of
past, present and future
Middletown, New York
Dedicated October 17, 1907
Re-dedicated September 6, 2002