From Schoolhouse to Firehouse: The Development of the Nichols Fire Department

The Nichols School and the founding of the NFD

Trumbull's Historical Society truly has a great collection. We try to give the public a glimpse of that collection by creating small rotating exhibits throughout the year. This past August I was snooping around the storage rooms for something interesting to put into our display cases for the fall, when I opened one of our acquisition closet doors to find all the items I needed to create a new display focusing on a small, but important piece of Nichols history. There on the shelf sat a hat, several nozzles, lanterns and a metal sign reading “Nichols Fire Department.” 

I found a newspaper article from 1934 about the development of the Nichols Civic Center, which included the development of the Nichols School and the building's role in the establishment of the Nichols Fire Department. 

The Nichols school was one of Trumbull’s earliest one room school houses. It was built across from the George Woods estate where the Trumbull Historical Society is now located. Before Nichols had its own churches, prayer meetings were often held inside the school. It had over 50 students and nine grades. Boys usually only attended in the winter and helped on their family’s farms in the spring and fall. The school was later moved to Shelton Road, with the older building being transformed into a cobbler shop. In 1912 a second story was added to the school, and eventually steam heat was installed. The school employed four teachers at a time until 1920, when a new school was built at Priscilla Place where the Senior Center is presently located. Residents were excited as the new school was more modern and able to accommodate a larger number of students. But what happened to the old two story school?

In 1917, eight men from Nichols decided to establish a fire protection group. Lewis D. Christie was the first Nichols Fire Chief. They had a small Model T Ford with a water tank which they housed inside Mr. Hitt’s barn on Center Road. In 1919, the NFD became an official fire district, with the Connecticut Legislature giving them permission to levy a fire tax. Eventually they began renting the two-story Nichols Schoolhouse on Huntington Turnpike after the opening of the new Nichols School. Between 1937 and 1938, a more modern fire house was built at the cost of $21,000! Once completed, it housed a pumping engine and a bunkroom upstairs so that volunteers could “sleep on” at night in case of an emergency. In 1973 “Station 2” was built at the corner of Booth Hill Road and MacDonald Road. 

Residents in Trumbull began to realize the need for organized fire protection around the same time as the first meeting of the Nichols fire protection group. This led to the founding of the Long Hill Volunteer Fire Company #1 in 1921, followed by the Trumbull Fire Company in 1923, which became the Trumbull Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 in 1925. 

Thank you to Trumbull's firemen for their service! 

If any of our fire departments have photos or information to share, the Historical Society would love to have copies for our files. 

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