Denver Firefighters Museum
1326 Tremont Place
DENVER FIREFIGHTERS MUSEUM: HISTORIC FIREHOUSE TO FIREFIGHTING MUSEUM
What kinds of design elements do you think existed in firehouses built in the 1880s that would still be useful today?
Denver’s original Station One opened January 2, 1882 as home to the Broadway Hose Co. No. 6, which was a volunteer company organized on February 27, 1881. The elaborate building was two stories tall and topped with a belfry that contained a 1600-pound bell. There were two large double doors, one facing 15th Street and one facing Broadway that, according to the Denver Post, were “for the purpose of facilitating the more speedy exit of the men from the engine room, saving them the time and trouble of running around the building.” (Architecture and Museum History). The downtown location meant it was close to prominent civic, private and cultural buildings in need of protection.
In the spring of 1884, the building became the home of Engine Co. No. 1. Station One was in service until 1909 when it was torn down to make room for a monument to the pioneers who crossed the plains and settled in Denver. The new firehouse was the current two-story structure located at 1326 Tremont Place, designed by Glen W. Huntington, a noted Denver architect.
When Engine Co. No. 1 moved into its new location, horse drawn apparatus were still in use, as in most of the rest of the city. The east and west interior walls were lined with horse stalls. The Denver Fire Department was motorized by the mid-1920s, and many of the city’s firehouses were remodeled during this period. Station One’s plumbing and electricity were updated, a concrete floor replaced the wood floor and the hayloft was removed, replaced with kitchens and locker rooms. In the early 1930s, equipment lockers and garage doors were added (Architecture and Museum History).
The Tremont Place house was in service until 1975 and continued to be used as headquarters until it was moved in 1976. Station One was one of the largest and oldest fire stations in Denver when it was decommissioned after 66 years of service. But the station was not out of use for long. Myrle Wise, Chief of the Denver Fire Department at the time, saw an opportunity to rescue the building. After consulting with a friend who was a chief in San Diego, where a firehouse museum was operating successfully, he moved to save Station One from destruction by nominating it for Denver Landmark designation.
A fire buff organization, called the “Denver Fire Reserves,” tackled the job of transforming the aging structure into an operating museum. They helped to clean, paint and collect the myriad of fire artifacts that were stored around the city. Then, in 1978, a group of civic leaders were enlisted to comprise a governing body. They held organizational meetings to create a management structure and began to develop a constitution, by-laws and a mission statement. The board incorporated the museum as a nonprofit organization in 1979 and the station received a National Register of Historic Places listing. The Museum opened to the public on May 27, 1980 (Architecture and Museum History).
The museum’s permanent collection consists of fire apparatus, personal protective tools and equipment, communication consoles, uniforms, trophies and fire suppression materials from a period spanning from before the Denver Fire Department was formed in 1866 to the present. It holds an extensive collection of works on paper, as well as firefighting artwork by local and national artists. The collection also includes a manuscript, photograph and archive collection. But the centerpiece of the collection is the historic firehouse itself, built in 1909 and celebrating over 100 years of firefighting history (Collections).
The station’s architect, Glen Wood Huntington (1856-1943), was born in Bunker Hill, IL, and first came to Denver in the late 1870s to work for the First National Bank. In 1880, he left for Texas, but returned to Colorado in 1888 to establish an architectural practice. He designed two Denver fire stations, including Station One, an addition to the Berkeley School and a number of single-family residences. His designs covered a wide variety of architectural styles, including Classical, Colonial, Renaissance Revival, Tudor, Bungalows and Foursquares and two of the finest examples of Prairie Style homes in Denver (Colorado Architects Biographical Sketch, Glen Wood Huntington).
Denver Firefighters Museum. Architecture & Museum History. Retrieved from https://www.denverfirefightersmuseum.org/about/museum-history-architecture/.
Denver Firefighters Museum. Collections. Retrieved from https://www.denverfirefightersmuseum.org/explore-discover/collections/.
History Colorado. Colorado Architects Biographical Sketch, Glen Wood Huntington. Retrieved from http://legacy.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/files/OAHP/Guides/Architects_huntington.pdf.