The Schuylkill County Fire Museum was formally dedicated during the fall of 1999 with several commemorative events and a dedication parade. The museum serves as the headquarters for the Schuylkill Historical Fire Society The Society is housed in the former Columbia Hose & Steam Fire Engine Company Number 1 in Shenandoah.
The dedication parade of October 2, 1999 featured almost one hundred antique and modern fire engines. The Society also hosted an open house during the fall, which attracted several hundred guests.
Organized in 1870, the Columbia utilized the fire station for over 125 years before relocating to a new facility. The building also served as the town hall, police station, Gamewell fire alarm system, and jailhouse for the borough of Shenandoah for over 100 years.
The Schuylkill Historical Fire Society acquired the fire station in the summer of 1998. Its members have been restoring the station to its nineteenth century glory. The Columbia station has its original hardwood floors, pressed tin ceilings and walls.
The station also boasts and original 1880s Gamewell housebell, indicator, and bell striker. The station contains numerous artifacts dating to its early years, including large framed photographs of its original members and several historical paintings and lithographs.
Additionally, the building houses a five-cell jailhouse dating back to 1880. The basement features an original nineteenth century oak bar and back-bar in its social room.
The Schuylkill Historical Fire Society currently maintains an interesting collection of antique fire apparatus in the museum. The oldest piece on display is the 1809 Pat Lyons hand pumper, owned by the Friendship Fire Company #1 of Orwigsburg. The Pat Lyons pumper was built in Philadelphia and was the first piece of fire apparatus used in Schuylkill County.
The museum also houses "Little Daisy"; an 1815 hose cart owned by the Citizens Fire Company #2 of Mahanoy City. A 1859 Studebaker water wagon, owned by the Ryan Township Fire Company, is on display at the museum and serves as the society's one of four horse-drawn apparatus.
Twentieth Century fire apparatus displayed at the museum includes an early 1900s hose cart owned by the Joliett Fire Company; a 1910 American LaFrance chemical cart purchased new and owned by the Defender Hose Company #3 of Shenandoah; and a 1924 United States Fire Apparatus combination pumper/chemical truck privately owned by William Kline of Pottsville.
Additional privately owned fire trucks include a 1941 Diamond-T pumper owned by Kline and a 1948 Studebaker pumper recently purchased by historical society president Michael J. Kitsock. The society has also acquired a 1969 American LaFrance 750 GPM pumper, which is its current restoration project.
The fire society has numerous displays and exhibits of fire equipment and memorabilia for visitors throughout the building. Displays include over 150 years of fire helmets, parade uniforms, a historical display of fire nozzles and breathing apparatus, an in-house Gamewell Alarm system, and a photo wall of Schuylkill County's most serious fires.
In addition to its restoration projects of fire apparatus and equipment, the fire society is also publicly active in maintaining and preserving the Gamewell systems in the six boroughs of Schuylkill County that still use them. Our county remains the last bastion of Gamewell systems in Pennsylvania. Society members recently restored the city of Pottsville's 99 street boxes as well as Shenandoah's 42 street boxes as community projects.
The Schuylkill Historical Fire Society is open for fire department, school and private tours. There is no charge for tours, but donations are accepted.
Interested groups should contact President Michael Kitsock at 570-628-3691 or William Kline at 570-622-3678 to schedule a tour. Membership inquiries are also welcome.