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Public Utilities employee restores county’s oldest fire hydrant

UPDATE: The restored fire hydrant is now on display at Libbie Mill Library. It’s enclosed in a case created by students in the Precision Machining program of the Advanced Career Education Center at Hermitage High School.

A 19th-century fire hydrant in the Lakeside community has been repurposed and brought back to life. The 118-year-old “Corey” hydrant, which helped to save the homes and lives of many Henrico residents, is now being preserved by a Public Utilities employee.

Utility technician Chance Rollison volunteered to repair and replace fire hydrants after overhearing his supervisor discuss a list of hydrants that were scheduled for replacement. Always being mechanically inclined, Rollison began restoring the 1895 Corey in 2016. The hydrant had been inoperable for eight years.

After a lot of determined trial and error, over three months of long nights and weekend hours, the 1895 Corey — Henrico’s oldest fire hydrant — became a passion project for Rollison.

“I admire collecting and restoring items from the past,” he said. “I was able to restore a piece of history with the hopes that it would remain in Henrico County forever.”

Rollison worked on the Corey on his own time, and at his own expense.

“My father once told me there are no costs associated with doing what you love,” he said. 

He worked tirelessly to master the antique piece of equipment, which had been slated for destruction. Since completing the Corey, Rollison has restored two other hydrants, the 1939 Harlin and the 1939 McNab.

The 1895 Corey, decked out with a fresh coat of red paint and completely rebuilt with original parts, will soon be on display in Libbie Mill Library. Rollison is excited that county residents and others will have the chance to appreciate it.

“It’s a piece of Henrico’s history; it needs to be preserved,” he said. “The 1895 Corey stood the test of time.”

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