The Whistle House was constructed in 1889 to house Hose Company No. 4 which was established that same year to provide fire protection to the West Side of Middleborough, a neighborhood which grew rapidly following 1855. In his annual report for 1888, Middleborough Fire Chief Walter M. Snow recommended "that a hose carriage and company be located at the West End, near the corner of West and May streets, as that territory is now unprotected." Residents of the Fire District which held the responsibility of providing fire protection to central Middleborough agreed, authorizing the establishment of a Building Committee at its annual meeting on January 21, 1889. Acting as the Building Committee was the entire Board of Engineers for the department, consisting of Eugene P. LeBaron (who had replaced Snow as chief), First Assistant Luther S. Bailey, Second Assistant Charles M. Kingman, Third Assistant Amos H. Eaton and Fourth Assistant Samuel S. Bourne. The Committee was charged with the task "to purchase and secure land for hose hoses, and to build two hose houses and purchase a hose reel." (The second hose house was to be located on Courtland Street near the Bay State Straw Works).
To man the house, Hose Company No. 4 was formed, being comprised of West Side residents. Twenty-five year old Dennis D. Sullivan acted as the company's first foreman, Carlton W. Maxim (who would later serve as Fire Chief and found Maxim Motors) was named First Assistant; William Keyes was named Second Assistant; and M. F. Cronan was appointed clerk. The company's two hosemen were Thomas Boucher and James J. O'Hara, while E. E. McCarthy and A. A. Belcher served as hydrantmen. Given that the ethnic composition of the West Side at that time was heavily Irish, it is not surprising to find that the make-up of Company No. 4 was predominantly Irish.
Initially, the May Street Hose House was equipped with 600 feet of cotton rubber-lined hose with which to combat fires. Maintenance of these hoses following a fire was time consuming. After each fire, the hoses needed to be cleaned and dried, a process which took a number of days. Because of the length of time involved in doing this work and the small amount of surplus hose available to the various companies in town, Middleborough was frequently vulnerable following each fire. Consequently, Middleborough's Board of Fire Engineers constantly recommended the purchase of additional hose, and in this they were largely successful, adding hose to each of its hose companies throughout the period. The May Street Hose House's complement of 600 feet was increased by 1893 to 800 feet of hose, 900 by 1896, and 1000 by 1899.
The first fire which Hose Company 4 is on record as having responded to occurred March 15, 1890, at the house of William Downing on the corner of West Street and LeBaron Avenue, only a short distance from the May Street House House. The alarm rang from box 55 on Vine Street, and Hose Company 4, along with Hose Companies 2 and 6, Hook and Ladder Company 1, and Chemical Engine 1 responded. The companies made short order of the fire which had been sparked when a burning chimney had set fire to Downing's roof.
Fortunately, fires remained infrequent. In its first full year of existence, Hose Company No. 4 was required to respond to only six alarms, one of which (on the Fourth of July) turned out to be a false one. Figures for subsequent years similarly reveal the fortunately irregular need for Company 4's services: 1892 (3 calls), 1893 (1 call), 1894 (4 calls), 1895 (2 calls), 1896 (1 call), 1897 (3 calls), 1898 (5 calls), 1899 (3 calls) Ultimately, rules were adopted requiring Company 4 to respond to all alarms calls originating from certain specified boxes all largely on the West Side and Everett Square area, but also including the Four Corners and the Town Hall. In the event the company was not required to respond, its members were expected to report to the May Street Hose House "and wait twenty minutes for the Second Alarm. Should it not be given in that time, members are permitted to retire."
Despite the relative rarity of fires, those that did occur were frightening. On July 15, 1895, the Company responded to the largest fire since its establishment six years earlier when the LeBaron Foundry on Vine Street caught fire. "The main building was well afire before the alarm was rung in." The entire Fire Department, including Company 4, responded and quickly had nine streams of water on the building, the most since the devastating Central Baptist Church fire of 1888. Much of the foundry complex was ruined in the fire. "Recall for 'all out' rung in about 11 p. m., but members of Hose Company No. 4 kept three streams on the ruins nearly all night."