Erie’s first fire company, the Active Fire Company, was established in
1826, more than two decades after Erie was established as a borough. As
the population in the small town grew and buildings were erected in
close proximity to one another, fires were bound to happen. The Active
Fire Company originally used buckets of water to extinguish fires,
eventually purchasing a small fire engine. By the 1870s, there were a
handful of fire stations operating in the City of Erie, one being the
Eagle Hose Company.
Built in 1873, the original structure at this site was known as the
Eagle Hose Company. At this time, hand-pulled apparatuses that were
drawn by horses were used to extinguish fires in the city. The
earliest form of a fire engine in Erie, the apparatus was a four-wheel
cart connected to a hand-pumped hose. The original two-story structure
housed a garage for the fire cart and a dormitory for the crew. A horse
barn was located next to this building. Hooking up horses to the carts
was timely, making it difficult to reach fires quickly. Removing the
firefighting apparatus from the station was complicated as well. These
issues prompted the construction of a new fire station in 1903.
Fully operating by 1904, the new station was named Engine Company #4.
This structure’s entrance and alarm room is where the stables once
stood. The new station faced east, instead of south, which made the
apparatus easier to move out of the fire station. The stables were
removed in 1912 when the fire station became partially motorized. The
station discontinued its use of horse power in 1921, relying solely on
automobiles. Over the next four decades, Engine Company #4 served the
City of Erie.
In the 1960s, Erie began downsizing its fire departments, and closed
Engine Company #4 in 1969. The station was renovated into a museum,
which opened May 8, 1976. The museum displays over one thousand
artifacts, featuring fire engines, firefighting tools, and an apparatus
from the nineteenth century. The museum also tells the stories of the
firefighters who once worked at Engine Company #4. The Firefighter’s
Historical Museum is open to the public every weekend, offering
interpretation of Erie’s firefighting history.
Sources: Whitman, Benjamin. Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary and Historical Reference Book of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Erie, PA: S.B. Nelson, 1896.