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Historical Walking Tour of York Pennsylvania
Item 10 of 14
The Laurel Fire Station is a large two-story building of Italianate design built in 1877-78 which joined with the Rex Hook and Ladder Company in 1888 to form the Laurel-Rex Station. When the Rex was built next to the Laurel, care was taken to make the two buildings architecturally compatible with one another, to include the bell towers at the corners of each building. The Laurel-Rex can trace its origins back to 1771 when its members operated from their homes. The company has since progressed from buckets to human and horse drawn engines to its present-day, modern fire fighting equipment. Today, it is one of the oldest continuously operating fire stations in the United States and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.

  • The Laurel occupies the right side of the building while the Rex was added in 1888.
  • A rare photo of the Laurel Fire Station No. 1 standing alone.
  • A post card that features the Rex's horse drawn hook and ladder truck.
  • The Laurel-Rex Fire House from the early 20th century.
  • A close-up of the front end of the Rex's hook and ladder.  It's not known if Harry and Frank are present in this photo.

The Laurel Fire Company began as the Sun Fire Brigade of York Town in 1771 and each member was provided a bucket with which to fight fires when called upon.  They drilled every Saturday and purchased their first lever-operated engine in 1772.  A shed to house the engine was built along N. George Street in 1773 and Rudolph Spangler was appointed its custodian.  The name of the company was changed to the Laurel Fire Company some time after 1777.  The name was derived from the laurel wreath that was painted on the engine. 

A new station was eventually built on S. Duke Street.  However, that station was, not without some irony, engulfed in a fire that scorched 18 buildings in the area.  The company then purchased a lot at the corner of S. Duke and King Streets and the cornerstone for the new station was laid in 1877.  It was dedicated in May 2, 1878.  Electric lights were added in 1886 and stalls were built for two horses (Harry and Frank) to pull the engine the same year.

In 1885, a fire at the York Collegiate Institute convinced many fire fighters and town leaders that a hook and ladder truck was necessary to help prevent future fires.  Led by Rex Stouch, for whom the Rex was named, money was raised and a truck was purchased in 1886.  When it arrived the next year it was housed in a carriage house owned by the York County Agricultural Society.  A temporary home was then constructed along E. Market Street until a more permanent home could be built adjacent to the Laurel Station in 1888.  However, it was not until 1957 that an interior door was installed connecting the two stations.

Today, there are many remnants and reminders of the Laurel-Rex’s past as well as updates to the building due to the technological advances in fire fighting equipment.  For example, the Rex’s basement was filled in to support the weight of modern hook and ladder trucks.  On the Laurel side, the Corinthian columnns were removed and steel rods were added to support the 2nd floor all to make more room for larger engines.  However, the horses’ names still appear where their stalls once stood and the wood in the lounge is still worn from their chewing.  Also, a gas chandelier remains in the 2nd floor meeting room as does a Dampier ladder that was damaged during a 1913 fire at the staion. 

Berman, David and Sally McMurray.  "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form."  United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service.  March, 1976.  Accessed December 18, 2017.

"History: About the Station."  Laurel-Rex.  Accessed December 18, 2017.

"Laurel Fire Company No. 1."  Laurel-Rex.  Accessed December 18, 2017.

"Rex Hook and Ladder Company No. 1."  Laurel-Rex.  December 18, 2017.