Old Fire Station #1

Fire Station No. 1

Fire Station No. 1 opened in 1910 at 118 Adams Avenue in Downtown Memphis. Fire Station No.1 was built during the term of the infamous Mayor of Memphis, EH "Boss" Crump, and Fire Chief, John E. McFadden. The "new" Station No.1 replaced the "old" No.1, which was located on the northwest corner of Adams Avenue at Second Street. When Station No. 1 originally opened, it housed a second-class, crane-neck frame, double-pump, Nott Steamer, built in 1906, as well as a 1903 Seagrave Hose Wagon. Both pieces of apparatus were horse drawn.  Over the years, Station No. 1 has housed Engine 1, Truck 2, the Water Tower and a Deputy Chief. Located next door was Police Headquarters, built in 1911.Desiring the support of Memphis Firefighters, Boss Crump determinedly set out to build the “Best of the Best, as far as fire stations go,” ensuring Fire Station No. 1 would be the pride of the South.  After nearly 60 years and hundreds of firefighters later, Fire Station No. 1 at 118 Adams closed its doors to the fire service on February 15, 1973, after the city relocated a few blocks away across from (then) St. Joseph’s Hospital at 211 Jackson Avenue.  After its closing, Fire Station #1 served as the Traffic Bureau for the Memphis Police Department before finally being shuttered by the city.  On November 19, 1992, under the direction of then Fire Director, Charles E. Smith, The Memphis Fire Department and the Center City Commission formed a steering committee to explore the possibilities of restoring old Fire Engine House No. 1 and establishing a foundation to operate the museum. 

The City of Memphis had experienced an unusually high fire fatality rate for several years.  In 1992 alone, the fire fatality rate was nearly two and one half times the national average.  The Memphis Fire Department needed a solution for this life threatening situation.  Their answer was to create not just a fire museum housing its rich history, but to impact the fire problem through the creation of an institute for learning and teaching fire and life safety.  Director Smith engaged then Fire Marshal Jeff Pickett and together, they formed an advisory committee of business and political leaders, resulting in the establishment of the museum as a 501c-3, nonprofit institution and a $3.5 million Capitol Campaign began.  On October 5, 1998, the Fire Museum of Memphis opened its doors with Memphis Fire Department Fire Prevention Educators conducting tours.  Once again, Old Engine House No. 1 was serving the citizens of Memphis and all of its visitors proudly. 

To further enhance the effectiveness of the museum in its mission, Director Smith moved the Fire Prevention’s Public Outreach Bureau to the museum where they continue to share office space with museum staff.  By 2003, the museum had gained enough financial momentum to offer Memphis/Shelby County Schools free classroom tours, including reimbursement for bus transportation.  Nearly 300,000 school children have been served in the past 15 years, reducing the fire fatality rate in the City of Memphis and surrounding areas.  Memphis experienced seven fire fatalities in 2013.  

 

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