On June 12, 1920, residents of the area known as Stanford Heights in the Towns of Niskayuna and Colonie, New York were prompted to meet at Harry Sharpley’s store at 3901 Albany Street in response to a series of severe fires during the previous year. In almost every instance fire had totally destroyed the structure.
The nearby Woodlawn Fire Department had been anxious to organize jointly with a new department in that locality but the majority of residents did not support this plan. Without public support to expand the existing fire department, residents were determined to form a new fire protection unit of their own. A week later on June 20, 1920, 43 residents were sworn in as members of the Stanford Heights Fire Department including George Harppenger as chief, Harry Sharpley as Assistant Chief, and H.E. Filkins as Secretary. It was not until July 24th of that same year that the department purchased land for its first firehouse at the corner of Amherst and State Street for $400. Many area residents remember this as the site of the former Duane’s Toyland.
The name Stanford Heights is derived from an early settler of the area by the name of Josiah Stanford. In March of 1859 Stanford purchased a home from John I. Vrooman on 3421 State Street. Located at the point of Balltown Road and State Street, in an area once known as Locust Grove, the mansion that Josiah purchased is steeped in history.
Originally constructed in 1762 it was once the site of John Duncan’s Niskayuna farm. Upon Duncan’s death the property passed into the possession of Captain Hand, a Revolutionary War figure, but was later destroyed by fire around 1791. The mansion was rebuilt approximately 100 yards north of the original site and was named “Locust Grove.” This is the mansion that Josiah purchased and what is now the Niskayuna branch of Berkshire Bank and formerly Ingersoll Home.
Josiah Stanford was the father of Charles and Leland Stanford. Charles became state senator from the 14th district and founded the Schenectady Daily Union. Leland became governor of California and is mostly widely known for establishing Stanford University in 1884.
In recognition of a need to raise funds and support the department, a ladies auxiliary formed and met for the first time on March 2, 1921 at 3702 State St. the home of Mr. and Mrs. C. Ribley. Over the years the Stanford Heights Ladies Auxiliary has played an important and well-appreciated role in supporting the department through raising funds, lending a hand with social and community events, and providing firefighters with food and refreshments during or following a major alarm.
During the three years following its formation the department continued to grow and establish itself. In recognition of this the Office of the Secretary of State issued a New York State Certificate of Incorporation to the department on May 23, 1923 thereby identifying the Stanford Heights Fire Department as a legal entity.
In 1938 the fire department was able to raise enough funds to replace its existing 1929 Ford Pumper with its first custom-built fire engine. Fabricated by Ribley and Harpinger, a truck bodies shop at 3702 State Street, it was a modified GMC civil defense truck.
On May 10th, 1940, twenty years after its initial formation Stanford Heights became a, taxable district in the Town of Niskayuna. In 1955 the District purchased two new stations and two new trucks for $90,000. Station 1 was built at its current location at 2240 Central Ave and a small Station 2 was constructed at 250 Morris Road to cover the south end of the district which consists largely of the wildfire prone Albany Pine Bush Preserve. By 1957 the district’s population had grown to an estimated 5,300 residents. Over the years both stations have undergone several renovations and additions to accommodate the firefighting and rescue demands of the growing district.