The Houston Fire Museum Showcases History in a Unique Way
Houston Fire Museum
The Houston Fire Museum is in the Midtown area of Houston. This historic building dates back to 1898. The oldest firehouse in Houston, it was designed by Olle J. Lorehn. It opened for business as a fire station in 1899 and today has an official historical medallion on the exterior of the building.
Fire Station #7 was the name assigned to the building. Visitors to this museum can learn about the history of firefighting in the early days of Houston. There are many old photos along with printed information on the walls relating to those times.
Early Days in Houston
The following text was found on a plaque at the museum:
The first settlers came to the Houston area in 1822 and founded a small community called Frosttown. The site of the town was near the present-day intersection of McKee and Race Streets. In 1836, with the war for independence in Texas over and a new republic born, two brothers Augustus and John Allen, began surveying and platting the future site of the city of Houston. Within a year, General Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, signed an act authorizing Houston to incorporate and named Houston the new capital of the Republic.
A person can learn much history by taking the time to read, look at the photos, and watch a video showing those rapid fire fighting efforts. Times evolved from all of the firefighters being volunteers to the first paid staff who called this building home.
Evolution in firefighting techniques also changed dramatically with the times. From lines of men passing buckets of water to the first hand-drawn pumper…that was an improvement. But it was still exhausting work for the men.
When horse-drawn steam engines first came into existence, that was state of the art at the time! Fire Station #7 opened during this period.
Rules for Paid Firefighters
Those first paid firemen certainly did not have cushy jobs! According to posted information, the regulations of employment were stringent.
Firefighters were required to work 15 days in a row, followed by 24 hours off duty. The firefighters were allowed an hour off, three times a day for meals. Firefighters were entitled to 3 days off each month but still had to report to first alarms downtown and second alarms elsewhere. There were no vacations.
Every night they rotated the duty of an outside fire watch in two-hour shifts. Drinking on duty was punishable by firing.
A fireman caught absent from his work post received a warning the first time and was terminated the second time.
Second Floor of the Museum
Upstairs in one room of the Houston Fire Museum are lockers as well as sinks and showers. Inside each cabinet are artifacts, including uniforms, magazines, and other items. It portrays a timeline from 1890 to 1980.
In the other upstairs room are various artifacts, including old firefighting equipment.
Signs accompanying the artifacts are informative. Do you know who invented various types of fire extinguishers? You can learn that and more by visiting this Houston museum. Poignant is the display of those firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Kid’s Room Inside the Houston Fire Museum
Children can have tons of fun here, as there is a room created especially for them! The day my husband and I were touring the museum, two darling kids were playing there. According to their nanny, it was one of their favorite places! I was permitted to photograph the children playing. The little girl had the brightest smile as she slid down the child-sized fire pole. I am only showing her from the back.
This room is an excellent venue for children’s parties. Contact the museum to make reservations. At the current time, the cost to reserve the entire Junior Firefighter play area is $275 for 1 1/2 hours. Up to 35 guests can have fun in this space, and this price includes admission to the museum.
What a memorable birthday party this would be for children! Where else can they dress up just like a firefighter and slide down a fire pole pretending to save people from the flickering flames of fire?
Gift Shop in the Houston Fire Museum
The gift shop has many appropriate toys as well as t-shirts and other items to tie the entire event together if giving presents to those attending.
In front of the kid’s playroom is a 1937 Chevrolet pumper on display.
There are numerous photos and other displays of a smaller nature. One of them relates to 9/11 and is a portion of a steel beam from the World Trade Center. Many firefighters lost their lives on that day of infamy when rushing to the scene to rescue people. The helmet by the beam has signatures by survivors of the New York Fire Dept. Station #54, along with the former mayor’s name.
There are two books with multiple pages showing different firemen patches from around the country as well as the world. Firefighters like to trade such items with one another.
Renovation Plans Complete!
We first visited this historical museum several years ago before the renovation, which added some much-needed air-conditioning. The kids' room was nicely air-conditioned, but much of the old structure only had fans and an occasional window unit.
Plans at that time included a much larger facility in which to showcase even more items while still maintaining this historic structure. Time for another visit!
This gem of a museum operates as a non-profit entity established in 1980. The building was fully operational as a fire station until its closure in 1969. In addition to being a very educational and fun place for kids to play, it serves as a unique venue for all types of gatherings.
The garage doors can open, and spaces cleared to accommodate tables and chairs. They have even had the street blocked off in front of the museum for one event we were told.
My husband and I truly enjoyed our introduction to the Houston Fire Museum and would heartily recommend visiting it to others. The video below shows it in some detail.
Hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM Tuesdays to Saturdays. The location is 2403 Milam St., Houston, Texas 77006.
When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work.— Edward F. Croker
Have you ever visited a fire museum?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2020 Peggy Woods