About 150 community members filled the Sycamore fire station Saturday morning to eat pancakes and to take a closer look at the newly restored 1923 Stutz Fire Engine.
The breakfast was a fundraiser to help find a permanent location to display the engine. Retired Fire Chief Gene Ege, who also is president of the Sycamore Fire Preservation Company, said the group recently completed the bodywork on the truck after it was dormant for several years.
“We formed in 2000 when we first got word that the fire truck was available from a collector to bring back to Sycamore,” Ege said. “It was the first motorized fire engine to pump water in Sycamore. The truck they had before this was a chemical truck – like a fire extinguisher on wheels. This was the first engine that would actually hook to a hydrant and pump water.”
It was in operation from 1923 to 1957.
“In 1966, it was sold at a public auction because they didn’t have room to keep it,” Ege said. “It went through three or four different collectors until 2000.”
A collector in Indiana contacted the city and gave Sycamore the opportunity to buy it.
“It still had our name on the hood,” Ege said.
The group raised money and bought the truck in August 2001. Ege said that when 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina hit the country, the restoration efforts for the truck were put on hold.
“Money was needed elsewhere, but then three years ago we started fundraising again,” Ege said.
Ege said the entire cost of the project has been donor funded; no city money has been used. Marty and Sons Body Shop in Sycamore worked on the $25,000 restoration project for a year and a half.
“It was in the Pumpkin Parade this year on a flatbed tow truck, but our goal is to drive it through the Pumpkin Parade,” Ege said. “We’re working with the Sycamore History Museum to come up with a permanent display site to show it so the public can go see it at any time.”
Sycamore History Museum Executive Director Michelle Donahoe said the museum board and the preservation group are in discussions to find a permanent location to display the truck.
“It’s an important piece of Sycamore’s history, so we’re trying to be creative and come up with different ideas to get a permanent home for it,” Donahoe said. “We’re in the early stages, but I think it’s a good fit.”
Four students from Cornerstone Christian Academy helped the group set up for the event. Harris Chen and Devon Vance said they thought the fundraiser was for a neat cause.
“It looks really cool,” Chen said of the engine.
Sycamore resident Matt Listy sold shirts and hats at the fundraiser. He said he’s been interested in the truck since it returned to Sycamore and looks forward to when it returns to the Pumpkin Parade.
“I just want to see it running. It belongs to Sycamore,” he said.