of the Modern Firetruck
Carl Morgan (co-author & publisher of "Pioneering the
Auto Age" (available in local bookstores) and former editor
of The Windsor Star).
you happen to have a soft spot in your heart for historic old buildings
- and an extra $350,000 gathering dust in your pocket - take a closer
look at a long, narrow, two story red-brick building on Walker Road
between Richmond and Niagara streets.
the vast majority of people who travel Walker Road on a regular
basis, you have probably seen it without really seeing it - or,
more importantly, without knowing that it was home of the first
company to produce a motorized fire engine in Canada.
recently, it was believed that the building had been erected sometime
between 1895 and 1904. However, a search of the Town of Walkerville
assessment rolls by Municipal Archivist Linda Chakmak, reveals that
as late as 1904, a row of six private homes (lots 37 to 47) were
located on that stretch of Walker, or 5th Street as it was known
at that time. A year later, the registry shows the lots were owned
by W.E. Seagrave, the head of W.E. Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company
of Ohio (established 1881).
far, no records have surfaced showing precisely when construction
began or finished but we can surmise that it was Seagrave who built
the building as the Canadian subsidiary of his successful Ohio fire
truck company. Walt McCall, retired Manager, Public Relations at
Chrysler Canada, is one of this country's leading authorities on
fire apparatus equipment and companies. According to McCall, the
Canadian Seagrave operation was essentially an assembly company,
using materials shipped to Walkerville from the manufacturing plant
1907 Seagrave assembled its first motorized fire apparatus, shipping
three engines to Vancouver. In 1910 the city of Windsor bought a
Seagrave aerial truck and in 1914, bought a Seagrave motor powered
pumper which was in use until 1947.
turned out hundreds of fire engines for fire departments across
Canada. When the Seagrave combination truck purchased by the City
of London was heavily damaged in a train collision in 1913, the
fire department thought so highly of the vehicle that, instead of
scrapping it, the truck was sent back to Walkerville to be rebuilt.
sixteen years, Seagrave produced air and water-cooled fire engines
but found himself in financial trouble when rival American-LaFrance
set up in Toronto in 1915. To save his company, Seagrave tried merging
with Loughead Machine Company in Sarnia and produced a line of heavy-duty
trucks. The move failed and the company locked its doors in 1923.
owned by Germail Mann, the principal building of the Seagraves site
(the middle portion of the site which is comprised of three attached
structures) houses a cabinet making operation and a body shop.
the building appears to be down-at-the-heels, its historical importance
overrides its physical condition. It is one of the last known industrial
buildings still standing in Walkerville that can trace its roots
back to the early years of the 20th Century (despite the fact that
in its heyday, Walkerville was the site of dozens of different industrial
fate awaits this nearly 100 year old building is uncertain. In larger
urban centres, it would probably be snapped up for converting into
fashionable condos, studios, boutiques or a combination thereof.
Now if I only had an extra $350,000!
here to read about the Ghost of Seagrave