South Norwood Fire Brigade
the first in the Norwood suburbs

Until May, 1888, there was no incorporated village of Norwood. All the improvements were being made by developers, community improvement societies and individuals — with the county and townships providing some governmental resources, especially for roads and schools.

One of the important developments was that of fire brigades. The West Norwood and "old" Norwood fire companies have been recognized as early fire fighting brigades, when they were organized after serious fires in their respective communities. However, the first brigade was that of South Norwood, which was created in anticipation of its need. Within a week that need became reality.

The West Norwood volunteers organized on March 10, 1890, (1889 by at least one source)the day after Peter Schneider's Sherman Avenue home was destroyed. The Norwood Volunteers, which called itself Company No. 1, was started on January 23, 1892, (according to one source) after a devasting fire engulfed two livery stables, a blacksmith shop, and two dwellings and killed horses on the east side of Montgomery Road, north of the bridge for a loss of $20,000 (a newspaper article at that time gave the date of the fire as March 17, 1890). The South Norwood Volunteer Fire Brigade was organized on January 10, 1888, (26 or 14 months before the West Norwood Department and 48 or 26 months–depending upon the sources–before Norwood Company No. 1) and fought their first fire six days later at Robert Leslie's Floral Avenue home.

The following clippings from the Cincinnati Times-Star tell of the South Norwood Brigade's beginnings.

January 10, 1888:


    "The South Norwood Fire Company was organized last evening at the Station at Smith's Road crossing—a building which serves the people of that subdivision for a town hall. No engine will be purchased just at present, but each member will keep two fire buckets ready for use at his house. F. A. Zimmerman was elected Captain, Dr. H. P. Hopkins First Lieutenant, J. H. Bosse Second Lieutenant. The following gentlemen signed the roll: Messrs. R. Thompson, Caspar H. Rowe, F. McHugh, H. P. Smith, C. E. Slane, Morris Wickersham, J. McQueety, E. Frick, W. E. Wichgar, C. F. Rust, R. M. Wickersham, Richard Evans and A. R. Kruse."

January 16, 1888:


    "The South Norwood Fire Brigade was called out for the first time yesterday afternoon. A barrel of gasoline at Mr. Robert Leslie's house leaked into the cellar and the vapor exploded, but the flames were extinguished after Mr. Leslie's cellar was pretty well filled with water by the enthusiastic novices. Mr. Charles E. Slane sounded the alarm by firing four shots from his revolver, and the members of the Bucket Brigade gathered from far and near. The Brigade meets to-night."

Robert Leslie's home on Floral Avenue, said to be the first house on that street.

The photos are from Norwood, Her Homes and Her People, 1894 and today, 2008.

February 6, 1888:

    "Both the Improvement Society and the Fire Brigade of South Norwood, meet to-night at the Smith road station."

February 11, 1888:

    "The Fire Brigade of South Norwood has ordered all the necessary equipment for such an organization."

Link to [Norwood Fire Department's History Page]