AFD Station No. 5
Originally published Nov. 26, 2013, The Amsterdam Recorder
With a cornucopia of century-old photographs, news articles, a fully restored fire engine and antique collectibles, calling Walter Martin the Amsterdam Fire Department’s historian isn’t too far of a stretch.
“Well, unofficially,” Martin said, giving an AFD fire helmet from the 1940s a once-over Monday in his firehouse-turned-home.
Martin retired from the department as a battalion chief in 2010, but never once throughout the nearly 40 years he worked there did he think that one day he would store his personal collection on the first floor and his home on the second and third.
“I used to drive by it and always think it would be cool to live there,” Martin said. “I finally got the idea in my head that I could own it.”
He and his wife, Mary Beth Martin, took a tour of Fire House No. 5 in 2000 and fell in love with the 1911, three-story structure.
“I never thought we’d live here either,” Mary Beth Martin said, noting it took 10 years for them to finally move in. “It needed a lot of work. But [Walter] caulked every crack and painted everything. It’s unbelievable how far it’s come.”
In 1973, months after Martin became a fireman, the firehouse went out of commission and it became Green’s Confectionery. The back entrance the horses — Buster and Tidge — used was sealed up and the front overhead door was replaced by a regular door to accommodate the candy shop’s customers.
Walter Martin said the condition he purchased it in was satisfactory for a bachelor’s pad, but he had to think of his then-fiance, too.
“Let’s be honest, he would have lived in it just how it was,” Mary Beth Martin said, emphasizing her husband’s appreciation for his large-scale hobby.
They kept the home for storage of Walter Martin’s thousands of collectibles while the worked on the living quarters — the area that had one housed a hay barn, lockers, a bunker and the chief’s office.
Now that it’s much more complete, Mary Beth Martin is mindful he keeps his “fire stuff” on the first floor, though she proudly displays a string of firehouse Christmas decorations in her kitchen and they keep a fire scanner both up and down stairs.
Collectibles line the walls in glass cabinets and shelves around the space, much like a museum, though he stressed it is his personal collection only.
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