Police & Fire

Bringing Geraldine Home: Madison Fire Department Working to Keep Piece of Local History

Madison Fire Chief Lou DeRosa and his son with Geraldine
Madison firefighters are raising money to keep Geraldine, which is on a one-year lease.
Geraldine, back in her heyday.

MADISON, NJ - In 1920, Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge purchased a top of the line Ahrens-Fox, Model P-4 fire engine and now in 2012, residents and members of the Madison Fire Department are trying to bring it home.

July 22, 1920 was a stormy Thursday evening and at about 6 p.m., everything changed. Lightening ripped through the area and lit a barn on fire, and wreaked havoc on Madison. When Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge realized that Madison’s firefighting skills were not up to par, she knew that she had to do something.

“She saw that firefighting capabilities were poor at the time,” said Madison Fire Chief Lou DeRosa. “They just could not pump water fast enough.”

DeRosa is thrilled to be involved in a campaign to bring back Geraldine because it is a part of Madison’s history that just so happens to be a fire truck. A long time Madisonian, he is worried that not enough people know who Geraldine is, or what exactly she stood for.

“Bringing Geraldine back is not just fire prevention,” said DeRosa. “It is the history of Mrs. Dodge.”

According to DeRosa, Dodge was a giving woman all of her life, donating three fire trucks, the municipal building, train station, dog rescue place, ball fields, and more when she lived in Madison.

Everything that Dodge did, she did with style. According to DeRosa the municipal building was a marble and granite building, one of fantastic measure, a close second to the White House.

“Dodge was a unique woman, she gave a lot,” said DeRosa.

Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge married Marcellus Hartley Dodge in 1907, who was president of the Remington Arms Company, and according to the Friends of Geraldine Website, “she was a great benefactress of Madison and surrounding communities.”

Because of these factors, Dodge’s influence sped up the normal bill time process (18-24 months), to about a year. Not only this, but Dodge paid about $18,000, when normally engines at the time were only about $850.

Bringing Geraldine home will be a big relief, as it has been on quite the trek. In 1960 it was in Ashley, PA where it stayed for only five years for smaller things like parades. After Pennsylvania, the truck journeyed to Las Vegas, then moved to Ponderosa in the 1980s, and finally to a private collector in Massachusetts who is the owner of about 150 other trucks and motorcycles.

Geraldine is on lease for one year to the Madison Fire Department. During this year, they must raise $150,000 to keep her in Madison, the time period starting early September 2012 and ending in 2013.

For DeRosa, this mission is personal. He considers himself lucky to be able to sit in the fire engine with his 7-year-old son.

“My predecessors sat in this truck,” said DeRosa, “Any chip in the paint, any ding, it's just so unique, if only it could talk, the stories it could tell.”

To learn more about Geraldine, visit their website to read history or make a donation, visit http://www.bringgeraldinehome.com.

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