8 Gardner Street
Calamitous fire was a constant threat in a town of closely built wooden houses near refineries and warehouses full of oil.
The Fire Hose Cart House on the corner of Gardner and Howard streets is the last of the neighborhood fire houses on Nantucket, situated in a densely populated part of town remote from hydrants but not far from a cistern at the corner of Main and Bloom streets. Built in 1886 to house Engine No. 6 (Cataract) and Hose Cart No. 8, the little Greek Revival-style building cost the town $412.62 to construct. The Cataract was retired around the time the NHA opened its fireproof museum building on Fair Street in 1904, and was exhibited there as an example of early firefighting equipment. Thereafter, hose carts were stored in the Gardner Street building, specifically Hose Cart No. 7 and No. 10, as indicated on the quarterboard that once hung above the double doors. By 1931, the hose cart house and the firefighting equipment it stored were obsolete. The fire chief had plans to buy two vehicles and suggested “to reimburse the town for the cost of these two cars, I would recommend the sale of the building and land on Gardner Street which is no longer needed by the Fire Department for any purpose.” The property was then auctioned to satisfy the more pressing needs of the department and purchased by neighbor Frank Bartlett. His daughter, Edith M. Bartlett, gave the building to the NHA in 1960.
For many years the little hose cart house on Gardner Street has exhibited artifacts of firefighting on Nantucket. In 2012, the site was completely restored and newly interpreted to provide visitors with a greater understanding of how fires have shaped the history of the town and how the town has worked to prevent and contain them. The Cataract, for which the fire house was constructed, was recently restored and is on display.
Excerpt from the Nantucket Historical Association Properties Guide, Fire Hose Cart House by Betsy Tyler, 2015.
Banner image of Cataract Engine No. 4, ca. 1910. (P11014)