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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Old Station Number 7



For those of you who aren't readily familiar with the Houston Fire Museum, we are housed in old fire station number 7. Old 7's headquarters was the first station built specifically for use by the paid fire department in 1898-1899. A majority of the photographs that the museum has regarding the station are of the outside looking towards the front of the building (as evidenced in the second to last photo here). A few show the building at an angle, as seen in the last photo, and you get a small glimpse of the surrounding neighborhood. The station was in what would have been in a relatively ritzy neighborhood. At the time that these photos were taken (probably sometime in the mid- to late-1910s), thie surrounding neighborhood was at the height of being an elite neighborhood filled with Victorian-era homes. Around the time of these photos, construction was completed of Union Station. This brought in more transient-focused businesses and eventually, after the end of World War II, the beginning of urban flight into the suburbs and the deterioration of the neighborhood. The neighborhood suffered until the early 2000s with the return of Urban Renewal and the building of condos, homes, and new businesses. The first three photos I've attached were found buried away in a file and show life at Station 7 in a way we rarely get to see firefighters from the past...the mundane day to day machinations of life. They are situated on McIlhenny, which no longer exists as a street next to the station, it's now our driveway. But the building almost the same. In the 1930s the brick was covered with stucco, but other than that, it's the same old neat building that we call home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Case of the Unknown Photos

Fire Department Vehicle. (c) 2011, Houston Fire Museum.

Fire Department Vehicle. (c) 2011, Houston Fire Museum.
Click here to enlarge this photo on our Flickr page!

Unfortunately, these are labeled "content unspecified". 

Here is what we do know about the first photo: 
  • The vehicle is motorized (a aerial ladder water truck?), and has the number one emblazoned on the cab. It is very possible that the motorization is via conversion rather than through manufacture.
  • The fire department or station name/number on the side of the vehicle near the middle is too small to be deciphered when blown up. 
  • The building on the left appears to be residential while the building near the rear of the vehicle, in front of/under the bare tree, states that it is a "Sanitary Store" and advertises what appears to be "Stahl's Home Made Doughnuts" (but it could be Stohl's or some variation of the two). 
  • Another sign, illegible due to the position of the vehicle, can be seen through the spacing behind the vehicle. 
Photo Number Two: 
  • This is clearly a different vehicle than the one in the first, a ladder truck if I am not mistaken. 
  • It's taken in front of the same residence but from a different angle. 
  • Additional buildings can be seen to the right, plus another residence. The taller one on the far left seems to have a unique design above the top floor window.
  • The Sanitary Store property is peeking out of the corner on the right. On the far left pillar the word sandwich is written from top to bottom.
  • The Houston Fire Dept name is emblazoned on the vehicle's hood. 

Looking at the dress, the accompanying videos, etc., a guess on my part puts the photo at no earlier than 1915 and probably no later than the late 1920s but possibly as late as the 1930s. It appears that the man/boy in the first photo in the white shirt talking with the person on the bicycle is the same person that is investigating the vehicle in the second photo.  The second photo PROVES that the location of the photo is Houston as the words "Houston Fire Dept" is legible on the hood.

Does anyone recognize the vehicle? The house? The business? 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fire Station No. 2: Bagby & Capital, 1927.

Firemen from Houston Fire Station Number 2, 1927. (c) 2011, Houston Fire Museum.

Well folks, here is our first mystery. This panoramic photograph was donated recently to the museum and was a surprise found in the donor's attic. Taken in March of 1927, the men pictured here stood out in front of the bays of Houston Fire Station No. 2, located at Bagby and Capitol Streets,. in today's Theater District.

This station building (b) replaced the original building (a), located on at 319 Sampson at Preston (when that building became Station Number 17), was flooded and evacuated during the 1935 flood, and was itself replaced in 1965 by a building (c) located at West Dallas and Bailey. That building (c) closed in 1986 to create a new Station Number 4 building and the newest incarnation of Station Number 2 (d) opened in 1991 at 5880 Woodway Drive and Bering. All of these buildings, except the original Sampson and Preston Station still stands to this day and are (or aren't) being used in a variety of capacities.

The photo above can be zoomed in on, as evidenced by the link above, at our Flickr page. This is where your help is needed. We are trying to identify each of the individuals in the photo above. By doing this, we should be able to tell a much more compelling story about this arm of the fire department, the men involved, and the emergencies they responded to.

A bit of history to get you started and/or pique your interest. These men would have walked into or experience the following changes to the fire department the time this photograph was taken:
  • Had every fifth day off; from 1895 through 1919, firefighters had one day off every two weeks. 
  • Houston was home to 138,000 residents, more Americans now lived in urban rather than ruraral settings and several skyscrapers were constructed downtown
  • A second platoon; created in 1921, the crews alternated working ten-hour day and fourteen-hour night shifts.
  • All fire trucks had finished the process of becoming motorized by 1921; many reserve apparatus were still horse-drawn rigs, but were harnessed to motorized tractors. All remaining horses were retired in 1922 and were relocated in 1924 to the Hermann Park Zoo where a fireman from the Central Station at Preston and Caroline went out every day to feed and groom the horses for the rest of their days.
  • Building inspections instituted after 1924; numerous fires led to the need for both inspections and increased public education t lower fire losses.
  • Houston's first continuously-serving radio station, KPRC, went on the air in 1925.
  • The city's first fireboat, Port Houston, was put into service with 18 HFD members assigned to the boat docked at City Wharf No. 5 and designated Station No. 21.
  • Plans and construction were underway for the city's first fire training facility; located adjacently to Central Station, it would open in 1928.
If you recognize anyone in the photo, know additional information about this fire station and its fire fighters, or would like to flesh out the history of this fire station, please do not hesitate to respond to this blog post or contact us at the museum: hfmi at houstonfiremuseum dot org. If you think you know more information but need to see a much larger version of the photo, please contact us at 713-524-2526 and set up a viewing at the museum.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to our blog, "The Jumping Sheet."
Houston Firefighters rescuing someone using a jumping sheet.
(c) 2011. Houston Fire Museum, Inc.

The Houston Fire Museum shares the history, experiences and stories of Houston's storied fire service. We believe these stories are as vital to America's history as the stories of presidents, industrialists, railroad men, wildcatters and oil industrialists, shipping magnates, politicians, or the scores of others whose histories are taught every day in schools across the nation. We salute our city and nation's firefighters as historic and modern day heroes, who helped to transform the Houston we known today.

We believe that history is a valuable resource for understanding contemporary issues and the road towards the future. Historical perspectives can shed new light on what's going on in our world today. In our programming, we aim to talk about the present and future as well as the past.

In this blog you'll find lots of historical information about Houston, Houston's fire stations and fire fighting history. However a focus will be on our collection's mysteries, of which there are many. We'll post about new research we've done, photographs of objects we've collected, and how you've helped us identify and uncover the history of our artifacts. We'll also keep you updated on new partnerships and how they relate to the history and heritage of Houston's firefighting service and the education of fire and life safety.

The title of this blog is borrowed from firefighting history. The "Jumping Sheet" is the sheet held by a group of firefighters on which people caught in a burning building can jump on to. I envision the blog and our interaction with you in regards to our collection's mysteries as the jumping sheet and the staff at the Houston Fire Museum as the group of firefighters holding on to it. 
I hope you'll hang in there as we get a feel for this blogging thing, and I hope you'll email us with suggestions or questions for what you'd like to see or read about.


~Tristan Smith, HFM Executive Director