New Bedford Fire Station 10 has been empty for as long as I can remember, but the old brick tower beside it, which served as a firefighter training facility, took on a life of its own when Fire Station 10 fell into darkness.
You see it from the freeway as you drive through what was once Weld Square and the Cedar Grove neighborhood. Fire Station 10 opened at 2071 Purchase Street in 1900. I don’t know when the training tower just north of the two-story red brick fire station was built. The first photos of the station do not include it.
Station 10 went dark in the 1960s. Several years later, the tower, known as the Old Glory Tower, took on a life of its own.
On Labor Day, September 6, 1971, Joseph Theodore, Jr. of South Dartmouth raised an American flag atop the old fire tower to honor veterans. It started as an effort to honor those who served in the Vietnam War, but has expanded to include others. Robert J. Barcellos remembers in a 2001 play for the Normal hours how Theodore became the first to fly a 24/7 illuminated American flag in honor of our veterans.
The campaign, known as “Light For Peace”, originated at New Bedford City Hall in 1968, and in 1971 under then-Mayor George Rogers moved to the fire tower, where she remained for many years.
In 1972, the practice of lighting and flying the flag at night was adopted by the Nixon administration in Washington. It’s a tradition that continues today in the nation’s capital and elsewhere.
In a 2018 piece for the Normal hours, journalist Steve Urbon wrote that deteriorating conditions made it too dangerous to climb the stairs of Old Glory Tower.
The last flag raising took place in December 2018. The “Light For Peace” campaign ended there, some 47 years and more than 550 flags after its launch.
The following year, “Light For Peace” was moved to the Fort Taber Military Museum, where it continues today.
As for Old Glory Tower, it and nearby Station 10 are the private property of Lee Miguel of New Bedford, who also owns former club Mickiewicz nearby.
Station 10 has been hit by several arson attacks in recent years. The Mitchell administration has expressed interest in seeing the property redeveloped.
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