The Fire Museum Of Maryland

The Fire Museum of Maryland plans a hot time for firefighters attending Firehouse Expo 2001 on Friday, July 27. With 40 pieces of fire apparatus and an exciting collection of fire memorabilia, the Lutherville, MD, facility opens its doors for a night of food and firehouse lore from 6 to 9 P.M.

Photo by Joseph Louderback
This 1905 American LaFrance 1,100-gpm steamer with a 1916 Christie tractor served the Baltimore City Fire Department as Engine 12.

And just to make it easy, shuttle buses will run from downtown Baltimore to the museum at 1301 York Road just north of Interstate 695 at Exit 26.

Apparatus from the hand-drawn to the motorized era occupy the block-long, two-story building that was designed like a modern fire station complete with a large display area, a fire alarm telegraph office, research library and gift shop.

"We've had visitors from 44 states and 15 countries," museum manager Debbie Brown said. The 30-year-old museum was founded by the late Maryland businessman and fire apparatus collector Stephen Heaver Sr., who needed a place to store his growing convoy of early pieces. He began in 1971 with a 1928 American LaFrance pumper followed by a 1922 Ahrens Fox. His 12-year-old son Stephen Jr., who now serves as curator, joined the lifelong project.

The hand-drawn, horse-drawn and motorized eras are lovingly displayed by a dedicated staff and volunteers who maintain the collection. An 1837 Charles E. Hartshorn hose cart bunks with an 1872 Amoskeag hose jumper. Check out the early hand-drawn engine built of mahogany in 1853 by James Smith. Horse-drawn relics include an 1888 Clapp & Jones steamer and a 1903 Charles T. Holloway & Company hook and ladder. A 1917 Mack high-pressure wagon and a 1954 Seagrave aerial ladder round out the motorized section.

Photo by Joseph Louderback
A 1839 James Smith hand-drawn pumping engine from Pawtucket, RI.

A 1916 Christie tractor, a steamer that battled the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 and a slick 1920s-era Baltimore Fire Department Mack wrecker highlight the main display area. The appeal of the Fire Museum of Maryland is its large area, which allows visitors to check every inch of the apparatus. Buffs can check the 1888 Hayes/LaFrance aerial and study the beautiful paint scheme on the 1875 L. Button & Son hose carriage once campaigned by the Marion Hose Company 2 of Salem, NY.

Kids have a place to play in Discovery Room, an expansive gallery featuring the hands-on diorama, "We Have A Fire." In this electronic-enhanced neighborhood youngsters play dispatcher - future emergency communicators spot fires, then decide what units to send. A button press sounds sirens and bells and gets their blood pumping. Nearby, kids can don custom-made boots and fire gear, then climb aboard a Mack pumper that raced the streets of Baltimore in the 1930s.

"I like the interaction. There's lots to see and we were able to trace the history of the fire engine," said Stecia Lansdell, a visitor from Vienna, VA. Her 4-year-old son Matthew and daughter Rachel, 2, enjoyed turning the pumper's big steering wheel and mimicked siren noises during their visit.

Just inside the main apparatus bay museum staffer Jody Kloch demonstrated the "rattle" that early American fire watchers swung to alert fire crews. "They would hold it over their heads and twirl it," she tells a family. The crackling staccato rhythm doesn't compare to the shrill bells that Brown activates for another group at the nearby alarm watch desk. The clanging draws attention throughout the building.

Photo by Joseph Louderback
Apparatus from the hand-drawn to the motorized era occupy the block-long Fire Museum of Maryland.

With the City of Baltimore so close, many museum artifacts hail from "Charm City." An 1888 Clapp & Jones 800-gpm pumper saw action as the Baltimore Fire Department's Engine 14. Chief John Killen's white turnout coat and helmet are preserved from his 13-year tenure, which ended in 1972. A badge and medal display from the collection of now-retired Baltimore Assistant Chief Gary Frederick is impressive. A video explores the famous Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, but staffers plan a future interactive diorama that traces the path of the fire and the effect of wind on the blaze.

Artifacts spread throughout the facility show how firefighters lived. A turn-of-the-century Criterion Music Box entertained members when they returned to quarters. Ask a staffer to play it for you. A gallery traces the history of firefighting through art. Check out the international firefighting headgear.

Year-long events make a membership at the Fire Museum of Maryland an exciting treat. Activities in 2001 include Founder's Day and the 30th Anniversary Celebration on Sept. 8, followed by a Hand-Pumping Muster on Sept. 9. October events include Family Safety Day (Oct. 9) and Lantern Night (Oct. 27). Movie Days, Story Time and Craft Day events along with all Fire Museum of Maryland information can be accessed by dialing (410-321-7500) or via its website at

Joseph Louderback, a Firehouse® contributing editor, served as editor of the FDNY's Publications Unit and as a government affairs reporter. He is a 20-year member of the Milmont Fire Company in Milmont Park, PA, and conducts media relations programs for the fire service.