House No. 5 originally constructed in the city of Grand Rapids
in 1880. Torn down in 1981 and reconstructed as a Fire Museum in
1984 at 6610 Lake Michigan Drive, Allendale, Michigan (just next
door to West Shore Fire). Stop by for a visit or call ahead for
a tour. (616) 895-4347
Built in 1880 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the
bank of the Grand River, Engine House No. 5 served the community
with a horse-drawn steam pumper and a hose cart. At the time of
her construction, she gleamed in white brick with red courses,
towered and turreted in almost Byzantine splendor. A great deal
of small-town pride was taken in her dazzling architecture and
in her horse-drawn steamers.
teams of white and Apaloosa horses drew the steamers to hot and
smoky work in the Grand Rapids community. At the house, a drop-down
harness system was used for a speedy exit. Her apparatus was eventually
motorized, as typified by the 1921 La France Engine posing on her
ramp, and finally, on her 100th birthday in 1980, she was slated
to be torn down. By demolition time, her brick had been painted
tuscan red, most of her decoration covered over with plaster, and
her usefulness was at an end.
this once-noble structure wasn't leveled by a wrecking ball;
rather, it was taken apart brick by brick and moved. Today, this
Grande Dame rests-restored to her Victorian splendor-in the small
town of Allendale, Michigan.
Except for a
somewhat simplified wooden treatment of her 90-foot combination
watch and hose tower, she is as she was, supported by brick walls
24 inches thick on the front and 18 inches thick on the sides.
The engine room floor is polished wood, and displays of fire equipment
and memorabilia are now where the horse stalls once occupied the
rear. Above the stalls was a hay loft, and sharing the second floor
was the dormitory and meeting room. The chief's office had its
own brass fire pole with automatic shutters that opened when the
alarm sounded. Beneath the tower is the watch office, equipped
with a Gamewell alarm and an alarm repeater used in fire headquarters
for distributing an alarm to other companies. Both rooms have been
beautifully restored with period furniture and the former chief's
office is a working space for the museum.
the apparatus that is displayed on the engine-room floor is a rare
restoration of a Babcock chemical wagon that was popular at the
time of the building's construction with both rural and city departments.
When water mains were still scarce, or not available in rural areas,
chemical wagons carried their own small water supply, forced out
by mixing acid and alkali soda to produce pressure.
The Babcock chemical wagon of 1877 is a far cry
from the later vehicles that called the Grand Rapids firehouse
home. The 1921 La France is part of the fire museum's permanent
collection. It served the town for 40 years and has been fully
restored to running condition. Sharing the engine-room display
area is a 1928 Ahrens-Fox pumper-also fully restored to running
and pumping condition-whose aristocratic fighting face mirrors
the architectural bombast of Engine House No. 5.