A disastrous late-night fire last week has caused serious damage at Baker’s Auto in Putnam Connecticut, one of the more important sources of our old car parts and services. The office and shop areas appeared destroyed, but media reports indicate some classic cars inside were saved. Fortunately, the large parts warehouse, although damaged, remained standing. Twelve fire companies were called to battle the blaze, but sub-freezing temperatures and lack of a nearby hydrant hampered efforts. Hose lines had to be laid for more than 2,000 feet to access water, which quickly froze on the ground. A firefighter who slipped on the ice and hit his head was injured.
The cause appeared accidental, but an investigation is continuing to determine how and exactly where the fire began.
Meanwhile, the effect on owner Steve Ouellette and his employees is impossible to imagine. Nor is the full impact of the fire damage on the entire Lincoln collector car community a certainty. For now, Baker’s Website simply says, “We’re sorry. Our store is temporarily closed. Please try again later.”
I visited Baker’s not long ago. The shop is located in the tiny northeast Connecticut town of Putnam near the borders of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It’s a rural area not much changed from when it was first settled by the English nearly 400 years ago. Colonial homes each proudly flying their American flags, were common and the piled stone walls separating the properties still stand as they were at the time of the American Revolution. A strong sense of history and community exists in small towns like Putnam. Maybe that’s a good part of why Baker’s has been such a success; their goal is preserving historic vehicles.
Steve and his gang couldn’t have been nicer. They proudly showed me around the facility and the adjacent “bone yard” filled with dozens of donor Lincolns. These cars and more than 2,500 others from Baker’s over the years, plus other new parts, have provided the “organ transplants” that keep our collector cars running and available to the many old car enthusiasts who attend and support our shows. I gratefully bought and took home a red taillight lens for my ’64 convertible—and of course saved the shipping charge!
A 2009 article from Hemmings captures the essence of Steve’s career and Baker’s. It covers what most of us already know about working hard and loving what we do. But please read it. You’ll appreciate Steve and his team so much more. Our sympathies go out to everyone at Baker’s Auto as they begin their rebuilding process. What can we do to show our support? Contact us and leave your responses.