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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A dented Box 414 coffee jug sits atop one case and like everything on display it stirs a story.
"It was dug from the rubble after the collapse of the Tru-Fit clothing store, a blaze that killed five firefighters in 1955," Lemmon said. A burned bowling pin tumbled from the six-alarmer at the Forest Park Bowling Lanes. A red fire ax was rescued from the S.S. Washington, a ship that burned in Baltimore Harbor in the 1950s.
The fun of the Box 414 museum lies in its "something-for-everybody" appeal. There's old stuff, new stuff and unique mementos that get tour guides talking.
"Life-preservers from each of our old fireboats," Lemmon said, pointing skyward to a high wall display that's easy to miss. The large discolored discs bear the names Deluge, Cascade, Torrent and Cataract. Nearby, Gamewell Box 414 is a relic from the days before the alarm systems disappeared in the late 1980s.
Ed Schwartz, the museum curator and Box 414 president, said his group will continue to upgrade the old firehouse and seek new displays that spread the history of the Baltimore City Fire Department.
"If you look around at the equipment and frontispieces, you see a great heritage," he said. "To know where you're going, you have to know where you've been."
Currently, Box 414's biggest challenge is keeping the mobile canteen running. The familiar red-and-white truck averages 100 responses each year. "We're always looking for active members who can get the truck out," Lemon said. "That's one of the reasons I joined after I retired."
Membership in the Box 414 Association includes a monthly newsletter, meetings and a badge after one year's service. For information contact the association at 414 N. Gay St., Baltimore, MD 21202. Visits are by appointment, but the firehouse is usually open on Sunday from 1 to 4 P.M.
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.