New Bedford’s Old Glory Tower Has Quite a History
New Bedford Fire Station 10 has been empty for as far back as I can remember, but the old brick tower by its side, which served as a firefighter training facility, took on a life of its own when Station 10 went dark.
You see it from the highway as you whiz through what once was Weld Square and the Cedar Grove neighborhood. Fire Station 10 opened at 2071 Purchase Street in 1900. I don't know when the training tower just north of the red brick two-story firehouse was constructed. Early photos of the station do not include it.
Station 10 went dark in the 1960s. Several years later, the tower, what would become known as Old Glory Tower, took on a life of its own.
On Labor Day, September 6, 1971, Joseph Theodore, Jr. of South Dartmouth raised an American flag atop the former fire tower to honor veterans. It began as an effort to honor those who served in the Vietnam War but was expanded to include others. Robert J. Barcellos remembered in a 2001 piece for the Standard-Times how Theodore became the first to fly an illuminated American flag 24/7 in honor of our veterans.
The campaign, known as "Light For Peace," originated at New Bedford City Hall in 1968, and in 1971 under then-Mayor George Rogers was moved to the fire tower, where it remained for many years.
In 1972, the practice of illuminating and flying the flag through the night was adopted by the Nixon Administration in Washington. It is a tradition that continues to this day in the nation's capital and elsewhere.
In a 2018 piece for the Standard-Times, reporter Steve Urbon wrote that deteriorating conditions made it too dangerous to climb the stairs of Old Glory Tower.
The final flag-raising was in December 2018. The "Light For Peace" campaign ended there, some 47 years and more than 550 flags after it had begun.
The following year "Light For Peace" was moved to the Fort Taber Military Museum, where it continues today.
As for Old Glory Tower, it and neighboring Station 10 are privately owned by Lee Miguel of New Bedford, who also owns the former Mickiewicz Club nearby.
Station 10 has been impacted by several arson fires in recent years. The Mitchell Administration has expressed an interest in seeing the property redeveloped.