I know little about the early days of firefighting. I grew up in an area where our firefighters were full-time employees and responded within 3-5 minutes of any call. Arriving fully equipped with red fire engines and modern equipment! After the Great Fire of London in 1666, insurance companies formed fire brigades to help protect the properties they insured. If they didn’t insure a building, the fire brigade wouldn’t assist in fighting the fire. In the US although some of this existed by the 18th and 19th centuries, volunteer fire companies were more common; made up by citizens of the community they were helping to protect.
The Friendship Fire Company was established in 1774 and fought fires actively through the phases of the early days of firefighting; from leather buckets the earliest hand-operated engines. They were one of many volunteer fire companies in the area. In those days, the idea was to keep the fire from spreading, rather than putting the fire out. The Civil War brought on new technology in fire fighting, the steam engine! In 1867 Friendship purchased an engine, but unhappy with the performance and unable to keep up payments they returned it. In 1871 Alexandria City acquired a steamer and instead of playing favorites between the different companies they did their best to convince the companies to merge into one company named Columbia Steam Engine Company.
This is Friendship’s original hose carriage, it was built-in Alexandria City and drawn to the fire by the men.
Friendship purchased this engine in 1851. It took 16-20 operators, men pumped the arms creating suction pressure in the domed condenser case which pushed the water out through the hose. Men took 2-3 minute turns and similar to the hose carriage, it was drawn to the fire by the men.
Friendship Fire Company discussed this topic long and hard. In the end it was decided their name was too important to them and they eventually stopped fighting fires in the 1880′s. As new technology became available and more expensive a lot of these volunteer organizations in general died out and was replaced my municipally run departments. Friendship has survived to this day as a Fraternal Organization. They are involved in the Alexandria City local community and assist the city’s fire department when there is a death and reach out to those families.
The Friendship Firehouse Museum, is quietly located a half of block of the business of life. The building although not original from 1774, was built in 1885, remodeled in 1871 and a new edition was added in 1972. The museum is small, but contains original equipment, and is full of history. It’s only open a few days a week for a few hours at a time, but I think it’s a neat place for some local history!
All of the thoughts and opinions are my own.