The mission of the Denver Firefighters Museum is to preserve the history of the Denver Fire Department and firefighting through the collection and preservation of artifacts, documents and photographs. The purpose of the Museum is to educate the public about fire safety and the history of firefighting in Denver from its inception to the present. This is accomplished through interpretive exhibits, educational programming and scholarly research.
Education is the primary focus of programs at the Museum. Educational program content is guided by its relevance to the mission statement. Programs are designed to provide the participants with opportunities to understand how fire safety and prevention directly affect their daily lives.
It is the vision of the Denver Firefighters Museum to present exhibits that are tangible expressions of the history of the Denver Fire Department. The goal in presenting exhibits is to entertain, educate, and guide the public in the pursuit of new interests. Exhibits also are designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the origins and growth of present community interests, activities, and attitudes. These goals are accomplished by using objects, documents and photographs to interpret the Denver Fire Department’s past and present experiences with the community.
1866 to 1869: On March 25, 1866, Volunteer Hook and Ladder Co. #1 organized, the first fire company in the Colorado Territory. The city built the first station at 1534 Lawrence St. A hand pumping draft engine was purchased in 1867 but scant water supplies and manpower limited its use.
1870 to 1879: Three volunteer hose companies were organized in 1872 after a Holly Pressurized Hydrant System was installed. A new Central Station was built at the same address. Colorado became the 38th state and Gamewell installed a 15 fire alarm box system. The next year Hose #4 organized and Tabor Hose #5 in 1879.
1880 to 1889: Broadway Hose #6 organized in 1880. Denver was voted the state capital in 1881 and on May 10th, Denver began to hire firefighters, many from the volunteer ranks. On September 1st paid DFD crews manned Steamer 1, H&L #1 and Hose #1. The steamer was at Central Station, H&L #1 at City Hall Station and Hose #1 at Archer firehouse. By 1884 Broadway Hose disbanded and Steamer 1 moved into their four year old house naming it Engine House #1. The last volunteer company to disband was Tabor Hose #5 in 1885. James Lloyd became the first of 54 Denver firefighters to make the ultimate sacrifice for the City of Denver in 1886.
1890 to 1899: This decade DFD added several new firehouses to accommodate steamers, 11’s, 4’s, 7’s, 10’s, 5’s and 8’s. All have since been replaced. Two annexed stations were 12’s and 13’s. 1892 phone service from dispatch to firehouses begins.
1900 to 1909: In 1903 Chief Owens rules that all steamer and hose companies would be named engine companies. As apparatus was repainted and lettered, the paint scheme was changed from red to white. The DFD purchased two motorized triple combination apparatus in 1909 to begin the transition from horse drawn rigs. The first training tower was built at 12th St. and Curtis St. Five new stations were built.
1910 to 1919: The DFD now has 250 firefighters. 1912 saw Chief Healy begin his 34 years stint as Chief of the DFD on August 1st , badges were changed from station hat badges to shirt badges with seniority numbers, and Station 18 opens as the first bungalow style motorized house in city. Station 8 housed the first motorized engine in 1915 and also the first motorized ladder in 1917. First grade pay was $95 per month with $5 per year of service. Three new fire stations were built.
1920 to 1929: In 1921 to two platoon shift begins. The repair shop moves from municipal shops to DFD shop at 19th and Market St. in 1923. 1924 saw the last of the horses as houses remodeled for motorized rigs. Engine and truck numbers now correspond to station number in 1925. Hydrant colors change from red to yellow. Four new stations were built.
1930 to 1939: 1932 DFD headquarters moves from condemned City Hall to the new City and County Building. Short wave radios in 13 cars. Chief Healy abandons red suspenders for dress shirts. DFD Credit Union opens. Underwater recovery unit formed. In 1937 headquarters moves to 14th St. and Court Place. Five new stations were built.
1940 to 1949: Engine 22 organized a Hangar 5, Stapleton Airport. Fire Alarm opens at 950 Josephine St. and IAFF charters Local 858 in 1946. A machinist and two firefighters die at Moffat Tunnel #10 fire.
1950 to 1959: New training tower built at 19th St. and Platte St. The DFD now has 526 firefighters and workweek reduced to 84 hours with one Kelly Day per month. The Arson Bureau begins with Jim Jordan as investigator. All apparatus on DFD have a two-way radio. Four new stations were built.
1960 to 1969: 1961 jet airliner crash at Stapleton creates need for foam engines at airport. In 1969 starting pay was $500 per month and 56 hour work week. Six new stations were built.
1970 to 1979: In 1971 SCBA breathing equipment put in service. The DFD gains full control of Arson Bureau. A 48 hour split shift work week begins in 1974, changes to 24 hour shifts in 1976. Headquarters moves to 745 W. Colfax Ave. DFD Museum opens to public. Stations 13, 5 and 2 closed. Nine new stations are built.
1980 to 1989: 1st grade pay is $24,000 per year. On August 21, 1985, Heather Larson becomes first woman DFD firefighter. Rocky Mountain Fire Academy facility at 5440 Roslyn is opened. DFD is first department in USA to get a TV broadcast license. Chief Gonzales becomes first appointed Chief since 1904, rank of Division Chief created and truck driver becomes an engineer rank as a result of a charter change. Engine 18 disbanded. Five new stations are built.
1990 to 1991: Dispatch merges with Combined Communications Center at 950 Josephine St., later present CAD system in service. Four new stations at DIA and new Station 10.
2000 to Present: September 11, 2001, WTC attack changes the USA and fire departments nationwide. DIA becomes Division 6. In May of 2006 Lt. Richard Montoya was the 54th firefighter to die in the line of duty. New Station 2 in service in Montbello. DFD gains a Heavy Rescue and Hazmat apparatus courtesy of Democratic National Convention.
The original Station One was dedicated on January 2, 1882 as home to the Broadway Hose Co. No. 6, a volunteer company organized on February 27, 1881. The original fire house faced three streets; 15th Street, Broadway and Cheyenne. The elaborate building was two stories tall and was 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.”
In the spring of 1884, when firemen began to receive pay, it became the home of Engine Co. 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 fire house was a two-story structure located at 1326 Tremont Place. It was designed by Glen W. Huntington, a noted Denver architect.
When Engine Co. No. 1 moved into its new quarters, they were still using horse drawn apparatus, as was most of the rest of the city. The east and west walls were lined with horse stalls. By the mid 1920s, however, the entire Denver Fire Department had been motorized, and many of the fire houses were remodeled. At Station One, plumbing and electricity were updated, a concrete floor replaced the wood floor and the hayloft was removed and replaced with locker rooms and kitchen facilities. A ladder company and District Chief also were housed at Station One. In the early 1930s equipment lockers and garage doors were added. 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 when it was decommissioned after sixty-six years of service.
Station One was not to remain unused 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 the wrecking ball by nominating it for Denver Landmark designation.
A fire buff organization, called the “Denver Fire Reserves,” was the first group to tackle the job of transforming the aging structure into an operating museum. They pitched in 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 hammer out a constitution, by-laws and a mission statement. The board incorporated the museum as a non-profit organization in 1979 and received a National Register of Historic Places listing.
The Museum opened to the public on May 27, 1980.
In 1982 the building’s name was changed as operations expanded to include a restaurant upstairs for a much needed revenue source. Old Number One Fire House Restaurant featured sandwiches, salads and desserts. The restaurant and museum were open only over the lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special group tours also were available by reservation.
Then in 1993 the character of the neighborhood changed and the restaurant was no longer able to support the museum’s operation. The board knew it was time for long-range re-direction. Several firefighters where hired in succession as directors that allowed the museum to grow and prosper. These dedicated firefighters knew that it was time to “take it to the next level.” The recommendation was made to hire professional museum trained staff.
Interior of Station 1, 1970. This fire station was later converted to the Denver Firefighters Museum