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The modern history of firefighting in
New Bern began with the formation of the Atlantic Hook and Ladder
Company in 1845. The volunteer organization was the first chartered
fire company in both New Bern and in North Carolina. The second
prominent fire company was organized in 1865, when Union soldiers
staying behind after the Civil War created the New Bern Steam Fire
Engine Company No. 1. Though they operated a hand pump at first, the
company received an Amoskeag steam engine three years later.
The Atlantic Company received their first steamer in 1879, and the
New Bern Company received a replacement steamer in 1884. With the delivery of the new
Silsby and Button engines, the rivalry grew
between the Atlantic and the newly nicknamed Button Fire Company until 1928 when
the two companies moved into a single fire station.
220-226 Craven Street
Opened by 1885 / Closed 1928
Presently retail space
Built between 1816 and 1818 as a row of four brick stores,
this Federal-period building is the earliest surviving
commercial structure in New Bern.
By 1885, one of the stores was converted to an engine house
for the Atlantic Steam Fire Engine Company. By 1888, the entire
building was purchased by the city for use as a City Hall.
Around 1905, a brick-veneered facade was added to the
The three-story structure served as an engine house and
department headquarters until 1928, when all operations were consolidated into a single building at 420
In 1935, the remaining city offices were moved to their present
location at 300 Pollock Street.
The 8,050 square-foot building
is presently used as retail space.
405 Craven Street
Opened 1913 / Closed 1928
Presently part of restaurant
Built between 1888 and 1893, this three-story brick building served a
variety of purposes during its early years.
Occupants included the Hotel Neuse by 1898, the
meeting rooms of the Elks' Lodge by 1904, and one of the
city's two fire companies beginning in 1913.
The Atlantic Fire Company occupied the building from 1913
until 1928. Fire poles were installed between the three
floors. The fire company relocated to a new station on the
other side of Broad Street in 1928.
The 6,000 square-foot former fire station presently serves as banquet space for an
420 Broad Street
Opened 1928 / Closed 2000
Presently planned for museum use
After decades of operating from separate facilities, the
Atlantic and Button companies moved into a single fire
station in 1928.
The two-story brick building was equipped with a tower for
drying hose, four apparatus bays, and a second-floor
Though the rivalries between the Atlantic and Button
companies were put to rest, one concession was made to
their competitive history: the station contained two
separate brass fire poles, one for each company.
After City Hall was moved to Pollock Street in
1935, one of the three copper bears adorning the Craven Street
structure was moved to the front of the fire
In June 2000, the fire companies and fire department offices
relocated to a new Station 1 at 1401 Neuse Boulevard.
7,500 square-foot former fire station is presently empty and planned for expansion of
the neighboring New Bern Firemen's Museum.
500 Fort Totten Drive
Opened 1951 / Closed 2000
Presently youth center
In the early 1950s, the New Bern Fire Department expanded
from one to three stations. Both initially housed a GMC
pumper and were staffed with a single paid person.
The GMC pumper at Station 2 served both the city and county.
It was soon replaced by a city-only engine and the fire
department ceased county protection at that time.
In 2000, the facility was closed as a new Station 1 opened around
the corner on Neuse Boulevard.
A new Station 2
subsequently opened at 800 West Thurman Road.
The 1,151 square-foot former fire station presently serves as a youth
1700 National Avenue
Opened 1955 / Closed 2003
Presently planned for municipal use
The residential-style Station 3 opened in 1955, also with a
GMC pumper and a single paid person.
Located in the Riverfront community, the station was closed
in 2003 due to overlapping coverage from the new Station 1.
The 774 square-foot former fire station is planned for use by the
Parks and Recreation Department.
Station 4 at 3101 Elizabeth Avenue is presently under
consideration for renumbering as Station 3.
City Hall Building
Different sections of the City Hall building on Craven
Street served the fire department between 1885 and 1928. The
first engine house was located in the second (2) of the building's four sections. From before
1898 until after 1898, the fire department occupied the second (2) and third (3) sections. By 1904, two
fire companies shared the second (2), third (3), and a portion of the
fourth (4) section.
Their equipment included two steam engines, two hose wagons, four
horses on duty, and two horses in reserve. The hook and ladder
truck and a hand hose reel were stored in separate buildings
behind City Hall.
By 1908, the engine house had moved to the fourth (4)
section of the City Hall building. Six paid drivers on constant
duty staffed the station, along with two paid engineers. By 1913,
the hook and ladder truck was housed in the second
(2) section, and a hose
wagon, a steam engine, and three horses were housed in the fourth
(4) section. By 1924, both
Station 2 and fire department headquarters occupied only
the fourth (4)
section. Additional structures over the years behind the building
included a fire bell tower and assorted hose platforms.
Other Early Fire Stations
Riverside Fire Company at unknown location.
Other early fire department facilities included a
two-story engine house and later combination fire station
and synagogue at 41 Middle Street from before 1888 until
after 1893, the one-story Riverside Fire Company station at the
intersection of George and Cypress streets from before 1908
until after 1913, and the two-story Fourth Ward Fire Company
station at 141 Broad Street circa 1913. None of the three
structures are still standing.
In addition to the Riverside and Fourth Ward companies, other
late 19th and early 20th century fire companies included the Excelsior Bucket and Axe
Company, the Holden Fire Company, the Independent Colored Fire Company,
the Mechanics Hook and Ladder Company, the Reliance Bucket and Axe
Company, and the
Rough and Ready Fire Company.
New Bern Fire
New Bern Fire
Craven County GIS
Building information is available for
most parcels of land in Craven County, including age, square
footage, and a sketch of the structure
New Bern-Craven County Public Library
The Kellenberger Room's extensive local
history collection was consulted for this article, notably vertical files of fire
department information and
Peter B. Sandbeck's Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina
Insurance Maps via NC LIVE
New Bern insurance maps from 1885, 1888, 1893, 1898, 1904,
1908, 1913, 1924, 1931, and 1948 are available online. Access requires password available from your local library. After
logging into NC LIVE, click Browse Resources and select Maps
Rocky Mount / Wilson
A version of this article was published on
January 6, 2005.