Box 414’s Baltimore City Fire Museum

Joseph Louderback conducts a tour of a museum that focuses on the history and people of the Baltimore City Fire Department.


You expect to find helmets, lanterns and an old steamer in most fire museums, but a rusty gun, a charred bowling pin and a Playboy Bunny's costume make a trip to the Box 414 Association's City of Baltimore Fire Museum a special treat. Photo by Joseph Louderback The City of...


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You expect to find helmets, lanterns and an old steamer in most fire museums, but a rusty gun, a charred bowling pin and a Playboy Bunny's costume make a trip to the Box 414 Association's City of Baltimore Fire Museum a special treat.

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Photo by Joseph Louderback
The City of Baltimore Fire Museum is operated by the Box 414 Association in a 203-year-old fire station. The 117-foot-high bell and clock tower served as a firewatcher's perch when volunteers guarded the city as members of the Independent Fire Company.

Housed in the former quarters of Engine 6, which shared the old firehouse with Battalion Two before both moved into the nearby Oldtown Superstation, Box 414 is a fire buff club that also provides canteen service to Baltimore firefighters. Since 1979, the club has operated the museum at 414 N. Gay St. - its name recalling Box 414 as the first alarm box pulled for the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

"The box was located near Hopkins Place and German Street," said museum tour guide Walt Lemmon, a retired Baltimore City Fire Department lieutenant who joined the 56-year-old club when he hung up his career helmet last year. The 34-year veteran is the perfect host for visiting firefighters because he once served in the old firehouse.

Now designated a National Historic Landmark, the 203-year-old station boasts a 117-foot-high bell and clock tower that served as a firewatcher's perch when volunteers guarded the city as members of the Independent Fire Company.

Special treats inside the building include a working alarm gong and an old ticker-tape alarm system that notches out 4-1-4 on thin paper ribbon. If you prefer current events, a modern radio console just inside the front door monitors active Baltimore fire radio traffic.

Apparatus on display include a 1917 Ahrens Fox pumper, an 1848 Agnew hand-drawn pumper that required 12 men to operate and a 1913 Christie tractor attached to an 1898 steamer. Large cases house artifacts from the old days - a display gives visitors a look at the famous 1904 blaze that decimated two dozen blocks near today's Inner Harbor. Photos, a melted telephone and an explosives detonator used to level buildings to create a firebreak brings the scope of the conflagration home.

The museum serves as the final resting place for the helmets of 25 firefighters killed in the line of duty. Some dented, some charred, each helmet lists the deceased member's name along with the date and cause of death.

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Photo by Joseph Louderback
The Box 414 Association's name recalls Box 414 as the first alarm box pulled for the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. Gamewell Box 414 is a relic from the days before the alarm systems disappeared in the late 1980s.


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Photo by Joseph Louderback
Museum tour guide Walt Lemmon, a retired Baltimore City Fire Department lieutenant, was stationed at Engine 6 when it was an active firehouse. Today, it houses the fire museum, where Lemmon views one of 25 helmets that belonged to Baltimore firefighters who died in the line of duty.

"I was on the same run with Jimmy," Lemmon said, pointing to the leather helmet last worn by Fireman James Grahe, who was killed on Truck 5 in an accident caused by a drunk driver at North and Harford avenues in December 1967. John Killian's helmet enhances memories of his death in a basement fire in March 1985.

A charred .38 revolver belonging to Police Officer Edgar J. Rumph honors the lawman killed while attempting to rescue residents of the Beethoven Apartments in a February 1978 multi-alarm fire. Lemmon recalled, "He was trapped in an elevator and everything collapsed on him."

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Photo by Joseph Louderback
The museum exhibits historic apparatus and other artifacts that are part of Baltimore's fire history.

One quirky relic from the six-alarm 1969 fire at the Playboy Club on Light Street near Lombard is the hot pink "Bunny" costume and familiar "ears." "One guy rescued the flag too, but nobody knows what happened to that," Lemmon joked.

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