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Ye Olde Fire House

She won't win any architectural prizes, nor does her unadorned exterior suggest her storied past. But in her service to this community, past and present, she is a priceless resource.

Over the past seventy or so years, she has been a forum for town-hall meetings; a venue for fund raising, for bazaars and community celebrations; a place of worship, a theater; the birthplace of scout investitures and nursery school programs. Our veterans have been honored here along with community volunteers serving in our Fire and Rescue companies. And it is within her sheltering interior that we exercise the precious right to vote.

Community art has graced her walls. And these same walls have echoed to the music of bands, barn dances and minstrels. Costumed kids have danced and sung here. Christmas craft sales have supported worthy causes. She has heard the prayers of supplicants and calls for community action. Her history is our history.

The path to this venerable edifice begins in 1931 with a small garage serving as the first firehouse and originally located on Bayside Drive between Garden City and Glenwood Avenues. It was later moved to Lido Boulevard and Hewlett Avenue. Shortly thereafter the Firehouse Community hall was erected on its east flank. It was dedicated in 1934. Although created as a community hall, a concrete subfloor was laid so that it could serve as contingent housing for the fire apparatus. Bonds later redeemed by community fund-raisers financed construction costs.

It was a timely arrival, especially for those wanting to attend Sunday services. A "Little Church" in nearby Nassau-By-The-Sea was gone. Point Lookout was consequently without a church. Ye Olde Firehouse came to the rescue. As reported in the Community Outlook of January 1968: "1934 - The Point Lookout Fire Company offered the use of the hall for Sunday (Community) Services ". The hall thus provided a vital bridge until the Coast Guard building was transformed in 1947 into our Community church.

A similar story begins when an itinerant priest named Father Butler was assigned to the newly created parish of Point Lookout. It was YOF that served the Catholic community until the Miraculous Medal church was built in 1937. It is noteworthy that some congregants (Phil Dougherty to name one) were thankful for the lack of kneelers in the hall.

  

Earlier in her existence she was fitted out with a stage to become Point Lookout's off-broadway theater. Plays and performances of all sorts followed.

Ye Olde Firehouse has received TLC over the years. Women volunteers operated an Exchange in the 70's and 80's to raise funds to refurbish and repair. The handsome mural painted in 1985 that currently graces the east wall is the creation of Cathy Gee Lechler.

Community efforts in behalf of our children often started at the Firehouse hall. It was there in 1971 that the Brownie Girl Scouts of Troop No. 2068 held their investiture. Nursery school was born there too:
"Then there's that delightful Nursery School in the Old Fire Hall with its colorful title above the door and the children's art work displayed on the windows. Probably the loveliest sight in town (if one is lucky enough to pass at the right time) is the smiling faces of the little tots leaving "school" around noontime!" (Community Outlook November 1971)
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The teenage Counterpoint program enjoyed the same forum, holding social events keyed to the needs of the Point's young.

While some of these functions have moved to parish spaces, community needs still depend on her faithful presence. Youngsters in Halloween or Christmas regalia are still seen on the premises as are neighbors paying tribute to our volunteers and veterans. She is a crucial standby, providing rainy day venues for community events such as the Art Show. And she is the home of the Historical Society and its archives

These tributes to the Olde Firehouse are not meant to diminish the many community functions carried out at the Community church Parish Hall and the Bishop Malloy Rec hall. And yet there are times when those spaces are already committed. There are also times when their sectarian nature or administrative issues bar use. A case in point: When the sex abuse scandal erupted in 2001, outraged Catholics bonded together to force reform. A large group was founded here on Long Island under the banner of Voice of the Faithful of Long Island. Chapters were formed in various LI parishes including one right here in Point Lookout.

When Point Lookouters, including many serving ministries in the church sought to meet in the Rec hall, the diocesan bishop barred them from meeting on church property. But thanks to the Fire Commissioners, Ye Olde Firehouse was made available, fees were generously waived. YOF saved the day and served for several years as a welcoming meeting place.

And who can forget the role of Ye Olde Firehouse when Todd our very own UPS driver was tragically shot in a random killing. We were at our finest when at the Firehouse we rallied around his family bringing comfort and support.

Ye Olde Firehouse is our town hall, our village green, a place which unites us -- a non-sectarian, public forum where our community celebrates its finest moments and expresses its noblest sentiments. May she continue to serve us.

And in the meantime, on your way to the Post Office tip your hat to this elegant lady.

(Many thanks to John MacDonald, Don Kelly and the editors and contributors to the Community Outlook and The Lookout.)

Photos:Bobbie Dowling