SoHa history on view at firehouse museum

by Town Reminder

SoHa history on view at firehouse museum

By William Pead

SOUTH HADLEY – Housed inside an old North Main Street firehouse built back in 1888 is perhaps the most fascinating look at historical artifacts in South Hadley. The Old Firehouse Museum that the South Hadley Historical Society calls home is more than just old firefighting equipment and memorabilia.
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The society’s mission is to preserve and illuminate the history of the town, founded in 1753. And Curator Diane LaRoche said the firefighting equipment dating back to the mid 1800s includes two 19th century hand pumpers, a horse drawn pumper, and a vintage Dodge fire engine from 1926.
“We have all kinds of firefighting memorabilia and equipment,” she said.
LaRoche said there’s also a canal room “devoted entirely to the history of the canal and to the Connecticut River.” The first commercially successful navigable canal in America provided a route for commerce along the river from 1795 until 1862. A focal point is a scale model of the inclined plane used to raise the flatbed boats up to the canal.
“South Hadley had a very interesting history and a very important place in the early commerce in this part of the United States,” she said. “The canal was an amazing engineering feat. It opened up commerce up the Connecticut River in a way that had never been done before of goods to be shipped over the falls, and it was very important to our nation’s development.”
What was known as Canal Village was quite a lively place, according to LaRoche, who said, “This area of South Hadley had hotels, it had restaurants and inns that were all sprung up to accommodate the people traveling on the canal.”
On the second floor of the museum is the 1890s room, which shows historical objects from everyday life in South Hadley. And the current featured exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of World War One, with documents and uniforms, and the names of the town’s sons who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
The Old Firehouse Museum is staffed by volunteers, all members of the South Hadley Historical Society. They are always looking for memorabilia to add to the collection. If residents have something historically significant, the members will be more than happy to display it in the museum.
The Old Firehouse Museum is open May through September on Sundays from 1:30 to 4 p.m. During July and August, the museum is also open on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 4 p.m. It is located at 4 North Main St., South Hadley.