Fire-Dex Blog

Old Firehouse Transformed into Cleveland Museum to Preserve Firefighting History

The Western Reserve Fire Museum & Education Center

In 1972, a group of 12 fire buffs got together to create an association with a goal to share interests in firefighting, fire apparatus, and fire history with others through programs and events. Their long-term goal was to someday create a fire museum in Northeast Ohio – and now here we are!

The group was able to rent the old fire station from the city for $1 per year, and embarked on an extensive renovation in 2008.

The nonprofit museum has three main missions, according to historian Paul Nelson, which consist of:

  1. Creating a first-class fire museum
  2. Preserving the firefighting history of the 11-county Western Reserve area through artifacts, documents and photos
  3. Restoring the building to its original 1926 condition when it was the Cleveland Fire Alarm Office and Station No. 28

If you haven’t added this place to your list of things to do yet, just wait. Here are some of the interesting displays you can check out while you’re there:

  1. The First Fire Hoses

Fire hoses used to be made of leather and riveted together at the seams. It wasn’t the best solution but it was certainly better than a bucket. Later innovations made hoses lighter and stronger.

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A section of an early fire hose displayed at the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center is constructed of leather riveted together at the seams. (Brian Albrecht/The Plain Dealer)

  1. Vintage Fire Alarms

The facility is the only fire museum of around 100 in the country with a complete fire alarm system as part of its exhibits. The museum plans to restore the system, that operated until 1999, to working condition, as well as put the old skylights back in that were removed during World War II for blackout purposes.

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Future restoration at the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center will include the second-floor Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system and dispatch center. (Brian Albrecht/The Plain Dealer)

  1. Fire Pole

The original fire pole from when the museum was actually a fire station still stands. It’s made of steel, however, not the polished brass seen in other fire houses. Nelson also said that the city’s first fire pole, installed in 1871 at Station Number 6 was made of oak. “Needless to say it didn’t work out. Too many splinters. They went with steel because it was easier to obtain here in Cleveland,” he added.

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The pole that firefighters once used to slid down to fire apparatus on the first floor still stands at the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center. (Photo courtesy of Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center)

    4.  Firefighting Model T

One display features a 1916 Hallock Chemical Engine was built, in Medina, on a Ford Model T chassis. According to historian, Paul Nelson, the vehicle was used in West Farmington, Ohio.

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Part of the exhibit at the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center features a 1916 Hallock Chemical Engine that was built, in Medina, on a Ford Model T chassis. (Brian Albrecht/The Plain Dealer)

There are many more exhibits, including tons of historical pieces of firefighting history and even a modern fire safety education center for kids.

The facility is supported by grants, donations, and a voluntary payroll deduction of firefighters in Cleveland and some surrounding cities.  Support for restoration has come from the City of Cleveland, State of Ohio, Ohio History Connection, and area corporations and businesses.

Categorized: fire museum, cleveland


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