Over the years the village of Pembroke, on the west bank of the Pennamaquon River, had developed as a trading center and assumed the appearance that has been so well recorded in photographs and plans of the late nineteenth century. Stores, shops and a hotel were concentrated around Union Square, the site that was occupied by the Pembroke Ironworks into the 1880s. During its heyday, the mill was Pembroke’s largest employer and drew English and Irish immigrants with experience in the industry. During the 1860s, the mill operated around the clock, seven days a week. Contemporary reports claim the night sky was orange-colored when the furnaces were running full blast.
The Corner was drastically altered on July 4, 1907, when a devastating fire virtually wiped out the buildings on the south side of the square. It started in the stable of the Pennamaquon Hotel and quickly spread out of control. With no fire-fighting equipment available, the only recourse was the “bucket brigade.” Even so, the willing volunteers were hampered by low tide in the river, and much of the business district was destroyed. Most of the section shown above, beginning at John Dudley’s tinsmith shop, survived until November 10, 1913, when fire struck Mill Street again and the buildings shown above were destroyed; again the bucket brigade was the only defense.
It was not until 1950 that the Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department was organized. It still exists today as the town’s bulwark against fire, along with the departments of other area towns that have mutual assistance agreements with Pembroke.
Caption written by Gail Menzel