on April 20, 2013
Located in a historic firehouse built in the late 19th century, the Michigan Firehouse Museum and Educational Center provides a wonderful exploration of the history of firefighting and the heroes who have protected citizens and businesses for centuries. In addition to the restored firehouse, a new exhibit area has been built to house many educational displays and artifacts from an era of firefighting with buckets and pumper hoses and hand cranked sirens and lights.When you first enter the main building from the Cross Street entrance, you will see the first floor exhibits of fire trucks of the 20th century. Some are nearly 100 years old, and are in amazingly great shape. Some of the early trucks were driven from the right side of the vehicle, like automobiles seen today in England and Ireland. I asked the museum director about this. He explained that back in the day, the driver was on "curbside" of the truck so that he could jump down and out and be right at the fire hydrant on the side of the road. It was about being efficient and fast to get to running water through the hoses to put out the fire.On that first floor exhibit area there were also a number of displays of things like vintage firefighter helmets, bells of a variety of styles and sirens including those that were driven by hand. On the wall were a couple of life nets used when people are found stranded in a burning building and encouraged to "JUMP" to safety.After checking out the fire trucks and exhibits on the first floor of the new building, visitors are encouraged to go to the second floor where there are more displays including several large cases of toy firetrucks. A short movie is also presented telling the history of the firefighters' profession.The walkway then leads to the old historic firehouse. You will enter through the restored kitchen area, which is adjacent to the bunkhouse where the firemen slept and lived when working their 24 hour shifts. The old brass pole is still there for you to look down to the first floor where the firetruck was awaiting the crew.The first floor of the old historic firehouse includes more exhibits and educational items telling the history of firefighting to include call-boxes and incoming communication methods. Am original logbook of all reported fires from 1907 is also on display.In the basement level of the firehouse are more old vehicles and equipment not currently on the main exhibit floor. In this area are several fire chief automobiles, including a 1913 Ford Model T and a 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air. One of the most interesting "museum pieces" in the collection was the 1924 "Triple Combination" fire truck utilizing a Ford Model T chassis with the wagon added by German immigrant Nicholas Pirsh in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The "triple combination" refers to design of the truck that included three features: (1) water pump, (2) chemical or water tanks, and (3) self-carried output hoses carried on the bed of the fire wagon. This is the same designed used today on fire trucks.There is a lot to learn about and see at the Michigan Firehouse Museum. I would suggest allowing at least 90 minutes, if not two hours to fully appreciate all that is on display.The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 12pm to 4pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids ages two to 16.A word about parking . . . it is very limited with side street parking your best bet. Because I was there midweek, I was able to park around back in their side lot. When you exit at the end of your visit, you will be in this small parking lot.
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