Ypsilanti developed into a manufacturing center in the years after the Civil War because of water power supplied by the Huron River. Until the 1890s, the city was served by two volunteer fire departments. By that decade—at least after the nation got through the economic crisis and recession of 1892—the city had the resources to build the impressive firehouse that is pictured here. It opened in 1898. You see the classic tall tower erected for firehouses in that era. These served two purposes. First, a fire officer in the tower could identify the location of flames or smoke and dispatch firefighters appropriately. Second, before rubber hoses were perfected and widely adopted, hoses had to be hung to dry after they were used. It must have been a back-breaking job to lug the wet hoses up stairs and then hang for drying. When this fire station opened in the McKinley years, the city employed six full time fire fighters. I do not know if the red doors you see resemble the original doors of this building. They had to be large enough to allow the large horses to draw out the fire fighting equipment.
In 1916, Ypsilanti’s fire department gave up on horses and purchased two fire trucks. By the late 1920s, the number of fire fighters had increased to 14 and the number of trucks to three.
I believe that this was the city’s only fire station until after World War II. The fire department moved out about 1973 and into their new building at 525 West Michigan in downtown Ypsilanti. I believe the number of firefighters has increased to 18.
Later the building was turned into a museum of firefighting and then a substantial auxuillary building was constructed adjacent to the 1898 firehouse to exhibit the fire equipment and fire fighting memoriablia that are on display in this museum.
Architect: Unknown to me
Date of Completion: 1898
Use in 2015: Michigan Firehouse Museum
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: This building is within the historic district that encompasses much of greater downtown Ypsilanti. In size, I think this is the third largest historic district in the state. It includes approximately 400 buildings. Listed June 28, 1973
National Register of Historic Places. This building is within the historic district that includes very much of greater downtown Ypsilanti. This National Historic District was established on April 11, 1978 and expanded on January 5, 1989.
Photograph: Ren Farley; May 9, 2015
Description prepared; May, 2015
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