It's official: Guinness says 130-year-old Manistee firehouse is world's oldest
Manistee — After two years and hundreds of research hours, the Manistee Fire Department was recognized this week by Guinness World Records as having the “oldest continuously manned operating fire station” in the world.
“Congratulations,” said the email that came to firefighter Fred LaPoint’s account. “You are Officially Amazing!”
“If I could, I would have done a backflip,” LaPoint said as the department celebrated the fire station’s 130th birthday Monday.
Always interested in history, LaPoint in 2017 began looking into whether any other firehouses had been in continuous service as long as the station at 1st and Hancock.
He contacted the record keeper at Guinness World Records in New York. Although they had no category for old firehouses, they suggested he do some research.
“For over two years, Fred would come in with questions and to do research. It became an obsession,” said Mark Fedder, executive director of the Manistee Historical Society, "With all of the volunteers who assisted Fred, this designation became a reality, and it will be a credit to the city for years to come.”
The massive stone building was constructed in 1888 after a forest fire destroyed most of the town. Three lumber mills had their own fire brigades, which were funded by subscription — and if you didn’t pay for fire protection, you had no assistance if a fire occurred.
Twenty years after Manistee's founding, the established the public fire service and built the building, which housed two steam fire engines pulled by horses and a living and sleeping floor. Seven full-time firefighters and a public safety director currently occupy the building.
LaPoint, who joined the department in 1979, says grain was found upstairs where it was stored to feed the horses that once pulled fire apparatus. There were remnants of a blacksmith shop.
At Monday's ceremony, a plaque was unveiled that commemorated the honor from Guinness. Tim Kozal, Director of Public Safety in Manistee, noted LaPointe's diligence in pursuing the title.
LaPointe, who is 65, will retire next month after more than 40 years as a firefighter and paramedic. He is shy, but proud of his efforts.
“This is a great honor for our dedicated firefighters and the city of Manistee,” said LaPoint. “I still have trouble believing we did this.”
John L. Russell is a writer and photojournalist from Traverse City.