History of the Van R. Rhodes Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
On December 21, 1926, the Rockwell Falls Presbyterian Church in Lake Luzerne was destroyed by fire, along with the Gordon Taylor and Charles Goodness building. It was this $50,000 fire that gave impetus to a community action to provide adequate fire protection for the community of Hadley-Luzerne.
Three hundred men gathered in the old Gem Theatre on Main Street, Lake Luzerne on January 4, 1927 to lay the foundation. With a good deal of enthusiasm, forty men offered their services as volunteer firemen. On January 25th, twenty five met and organized the Rockwell Falls Volunteer Fire Company. Officers elected were; Otis W. Howe, Foreman; John F. Tunney, Jr., Assistant Foreman; Frederick Shaw, 2nd Assistant Foreman; George H. Cranston, Treasurer; Ernest Stone, Secretary; Clarence Rozelle, Chief; Lewis Stone, Assistant Chief and George L. Green, 2nd Assistant Chief.
Official records and newspaper items are sketchy as to this company's activity during the year 1927, but it is apparent that little or no equipment was available for the company's use.
Organization of a fire company led to the legal details necessary to form a fire district. At a meeting on August 1, 1927 a public meeting was held to elect Fire Commissioners of the Luzerne-Hadley Consolidated Fire District, and a District Treasurer. The original Board of Fire Commissioners of the Luzerne-Hadley Consolidated Fire District were George R. Thompson, Stewart C. Taylor, Clifford Smead, Frank S. Visscher, Charles H. Ross and Leroy M. Pulver.
A news item of August 23rd indicated approval by the voters of an appropriation of $25,000 to purchase equipment. Another item dated November 17th states that construction had begun on the fire station. The fire station on School Street in Luzerne was completed by the end of February.
The last mention of the Rockwell Falls Volunteer Fire Company was a newspaper item of December 29, 1927 announcing a meeting that evening in the IOOF Hall. The Company existed approximately one year and the formation of the Van. R. Rhodes Volunteer Fire Company immediately followed.
In honoring Van R. Rhodes' efforts in organizing volunteer fire protection for the district, the Company bears his name. He was born in the town of Day on July 3, 1871 and he died in Hadley on May 15, 1928. During his lifetime, he was a successful lumber mill operator and general store owner in partnership with B. W. Johnson. A successful developer, he created Lake Vanare, a title formed from his name "Van R.". He developed both the Lake and Pierpont Heights into popular resort areas and Hadley Heights into a residential development. He also was a charter member of the board of directors of the Luzerne-Hadley Bank.
The records of the Van R. Rhodes Volunteer Fire Company indicate that the Company was formed on January 3, 1928. A news item of January 5th indicated that the Fire Commissioners met and approved the organization of the new Company as well as a list of member applicants. According to the news item, the Company met immediately afterward and elected the following officers; Walter Andrews, Chief; Guy Wright, 1st Assistant Chief; Harry G. Evens, 2nd Assistant Chief; Leonard Ives, Secretary and George H. Cranston, Treasurer.
Charter members of the Company were; Walter H. Andrews, Richard Black, William Brown, Edward C. Clemons, George H. Cranston, Harry G. Evens, Franklin H. Gardner, George L. Greene, Smith Harpp, Gordon Harris, Otis W. Howe, Leonard P. Ives, Harvey R. Palmer, Mortimer L. Pulver, Frederick I. Roider, George Roider, Watson L. Shippee, Dewey Stewart, Ernest Stone, Guy L. Stone, Lewis Stone, John F. Tunney, R.L. Wheeler, Kenneth T. White and Guy H. Wright.
On January 26th another newspaper notice stated that the new American La France pumper had arrived. On January 27th a three hour demonstration of the pumper was held on the Lake Avenue bridge.
The Van R. Rhodes Volunteer Fire Company started almost immediately to raise funds by means of a Fireman's Ball. This was an annual affair until World War II. Later they added a regatta which was a popular annual event for many years and they also experimented with a Field Day. In 1929 the Company voted to sponsor the local Boy Scout Troop and continued to do so for many years, providing not only the entire Troop Committee, Scoutmaster and Assistant, but also funds. It was during this sponsorship that the local Troop reached one of the high points of its history. The firemen organized both a baseball and a basketball team in 1930.
They also purchased an inhalator in 1930, becoming involved not only in fighting fires, but also in saving lives threatened from other causes. The inhalator was used for many years, thoroughly proving its worth, until the Fire Commissioners, at the Company's request, purchased a combination resuscitator, inhalator and aspirator in 1949.
In 1934, after repeated failures by other groups, the Company organized a band bearing its name. Funds, personnel and whole-hearted interest were provided by the firemen. Originally the band was under the direct control of the Company, but was later independent, governed by and executive committee composed of four firemen and three band members. The band was active until 1958.
Incorporation of the Company was effected in 1948 through the valuable assistance of L.M. Pulver, longtime Secretary of the Board of Fire Commissioners. In this same year, six members of the Company were appointed as Fire Police, with the approval of the Town Boards of Hadley and Luzerne.
For several years, the Company had maintained a "crutch bank", loaning crutches to local residents for short terms when needed.
The present firehouse on Lake Avenue in Lake Luzerne was dedicated on August 26, 1979. Construction originally began in Autumn of 1977 and was completed in the Spring of 1979. Donations, organized by the Fire Company Auxiliary, included volunteer effort and donations from townspeople, businessmen, contractors, firemen and auxiliary members.
The Van R. Rhodes Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. is a member of both Warren County and Saratoga County Mutual Aid Systems.
Dave O'Neal - President
Gary Powers - Vice President
Douglas Dutcher - Secretary
Ed Bus - Treasurer
President - Tammy O'Neal
Vice President - Ashley Miller
Billy Winslow - Officer
November 16, 2022