HISTORY OF THE OAKLAND GARDENS COMMUNITY & FIRE DEPARTMENT
Oakland Gardens, a subdivision of the Town of Farmington, is nestled between the West Hartford Reservoir and Mountain Spring Road. Starting as a small neighborhood in the late 1800’s, it blossomed into a full-blown subdivision in the early 1900’s when house building lots were offered for a $5.00 down payment. Families like Carl and Agnes Josephson moved from West Hartford to Crescent Ave. in Oakland Gardens, drawn by the rural atmosphere of Farmington as a great place to raise their children, Ray and Bea. Bea would later marry Bernie Person, long time chief of the Oakland Gardens Volunteer Fire Department.
Families moving to Oakland Gardens formed a close-knit neighborhood, and by 1941 had established the Oakland Gardens Community Club. The Club consisted of a Women’s Club and a Men’s club, which had a sub-group of volunteer firefighters. When the neighborhood grew big enough to support a firehouse, the Club raised money for its construction by selling newspapers, and scrap metal, and holding fund-raising activities .
The Community Club was also instrumental in the building and maintaining of the new Oakland Gardens firehouse. Club members skilled in carpentry, plumbing, and construction literally built the firehouse themselves. Pat Spirito, for example, a skilled mason, laid the concrete floor for the new building. Once completed, the new firehouse became the heartbeat and social center for the Oakland Gardens community. Leadership provided by groups like the Woods family, along with the general community spirit, helped the neighborhood thrive.
While the firehouse was under construction, the Community Club raised money to purchase their first fire truck, a used 1937 GMC. When the truck arrived it was housed in the garage of Fritz Johnson, on Beech St., until the firehouse was completed. Manned by the Oakland Gardens Volunteer Fire Department (OGVFD), the firehouse provided fire and rescue services for the Oakland Gardens Community and surrounding neighborhoods. It was also the scene of many Community Club meetings, fund raising breakfasts and dinners, Halloween parties, and other neighborhood events.
By the 1980s, the firehouse building was showing its age and needed major repairs. Since the Community Club did not have sufficient funds for the needed work, it negotiated with the Town to have it take ownership of the firehouse and property. The Town then funded the building renovations and the purchase of the OGVFD’s first new fire truck, Engine 8. When the truck did not fit in the existing firehouse bay, the Town agreed to finance the construction of a large firehouse addition. Volunteer firefighters Mike Paretta, John Donagher, and Walt Brady did an amazing job completing the addition with the help of several OGVFD members.
In November of 1990, to improve efficiency and cooperation among Town firefighters, the Town Council approved the merger of the OGVFD and the Farmington Volunteer Fire Department, located on Main St. in Town. Firefighters Dennis Person and Ben Talit led the negotiations for the merger, which was approved unanimously by the OGVFD. The Oakland Gardens firehouse would remain and serve as a substation of the merged Departments. The Town then purchased two new vehicles for the Oakland Gardens station, a mini pumper Attack 7 and a full sized pumper engine 8.
During the 1990’s the town undertook a review and update of all fire facilities, resulting in the demolition of the original Oakland Gardens firehouse and the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility. Featuring larger bays, kitchen, rec area, and a large community center, the firehouse remains the center of activity for the Oakland Gardens Community. The Community’s original fire truck, the 1937 GMC has been meticulously restored by firefighters Paul Erasmus and Mike LaPierre and is still proudly displayed in local parades and apparatus contests.
Though many of the faces have changed over time, the spirit of the Oakland Gardens Community and Volunteer Fire Department continues today. The Community will host its 75th anniversary in May of 2016, with event dates and times to be announced. Come help us celebrate!
Thanks to, Dennis Person
Past Fire Chief's
Chris Scott (Deputy Chief)
Ben Talit (Deputy Chief)
Chris Scott (Deputy Chief)
Dave Hutchison (Deputy Chief)
Ron Talit (Deputy Chief)