Oliver Byron’s Next Performance …
The city of Long Branch acquired the old Oliver Byron Engine Company, No. 5 firehouse on Atlantic Avenue. The 116-year-old building in North End had a $650,000 price. Plans call for the property to be renovated and reopened as the “Long Branch Fire and History Museum” ready in early 2024.
It’s a bold but attentive act. The city desperately needs to find ways to preserve, protect and promote its rich history. Now more than ever. Things are slipping away. Every month it seems another part of Long Branch disappears. So credit the mayor and council for acting here. With the city’s heritage fleeting — noticeable to me after searching old newspaper digital archives for the past 5 years — this preservation plan is a step in the right direction.
A famous actor who lived in and loved North End and its people, Oliver Doud Byron financed and built a structure on Atlantic Avenue for local firemen back in 1890. The “Byrons” were officially incorporated by 1898. Edward W. Reid was the first president. After a suspicious third-floor fire (in the lodge room) in April 1907, the original firehouse was torn down and quickly replaced with a new building. Hyer & Wright did the construction for $4,400 and J.H. Sutphen was the architect.
When he died in October 1920 in Long Branch, Byron was hailed as a “pioneer actor on the American stage” by the Long Branch Daily Record. Born in Frederick City, Maryland in November 1842 (first appearing on the stage at age 14), he would spend 48 consecutive summers in the city. Known as the “Summer Mayor of North Long Branch,” at one point he owned eight large seashore cottages in North Long Branch and Monmouth Beach.
The OB fire company membership will consolidate with the Neptune Hose Company No. 1. Dr. James O. Green (“Father” of the Long Branch Fire Department) founded the Neptune company in September 1877. An early physician in town, he died in 1916. His father, Capt. James Green (1800–1863) started the US Life-Saving Service at Green’s Pond (now Takanassee Lake). The family also started the Takanassee Beach Club in 1932.
The Long Branch Fire Department was officially organized in November 1878, according to a May 1964 Long Branch Daily Record story on its history. John E. Rogers of the Atlantics was the first chief. In 1977, Long Branch had the nation’s largest active volunteer fire department (600 members and 9 fire companies), according to the Asbury Park Press.
Now that Oliver Byron is off-line the city is down to eight fire companies — Atlantic Fire Company (on Broadway), Independent Engine & Truck Company #2, Oceanic Fire Company (Norwood Ave), West End Engine Company (Second Ave), Neptune Hose Company (Branchport Ave), Phil Daly Hose Company, Branchport Hose Company (Branchport Ave), and Elberon Engine Company (Lincoln Ave).
Here are some Oliver Byron-related images: