The Museum Building
The Tampa Firefighters Museum is located in a fully restored firehouse. Built in 1911, the building served as the Downtown Tampa fire station and the original fire department headquarters until 1978 when a modern new fire station was built across the street.
Features of the building reflect the unique time during which it was constructed. This fire station was the last one built in Tampa with horse-drawn fire apparatus in mind.
This building has been designated a “local historical landmark” by the City of Tampa Historic Designation Division. It has also received numerous restoration and preservation awards including the Commercial Restoration Achievement Award from Tampa Preservation Incorporated, and the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Award.
You begin to see the exhibits as soon as you walk in the front door. You are surrounded by century old brick and photographs of how the museum looked when it was a working fire station adorn the walls. When you walk into the main exhibit space you see life-sized mannequins depicting firefighter protective gear of old and new. Then you go around the corner to see communication gear, alarm boxes and speaking trumpets, from a time when telephones were rare and radios were nonexistent.
Below your feet, the cement floor shows scars from the days when the hooves of large horse-pulled heavy steam drawn fire apparatus out of the station and to an alarm. The building and the exhibits join to help you look back at the history of Tampa firefighting life.
From the time you pass through the main entryway, you can feel the strength of the brick construction beside you and around you.
The station was built of brick in 1911 to make it resistant to fire being spread from adjacent wood buildings. The features of the fire station itself are part of the exhibits. The brick walls, fire shutters on windows, poles for firefighters to quickly ascend from the second to the first floor, and gashes in the cement floor where the hooves of large horses dug in to get steam-powered fire equipment rolling to an alarm. All of share stories of firefighting life in a different age.
A large communications board and fire alarm boxes speak to a time when phones were rare and radios almost nonexistent. To report an alarm, residents would have to go to the corner and ‘pull a box’ to summon help.
Hanging on one wall is a life safety net. Maybe you’ve seen them in cartoons or old silent movies. A team of firefighters would hold the net and a person, trapped by smoke and flames on the upper floor of a burning building, was supposed to jump into the net. There are few documented stories of this type of life safety net ever being used. However, this one was carried on the side of a Tampa ladder truck for many decades finding use only in training sessions.
In a solemn back corner of the fire museum sits a beautiful metal sculpture. It is a memorial to the firefighters in New York, 343 of them, who died on 9-11-2001.
Interactive Children’s Area
The Tampa Firefighters Museum includes a children’s hands-on, interactive, fire safety, and emergency awareness area.
Children can crawl through a ‘smoke filled’ hallway depicted by smoke plumes drawn on the wall. Then put on fire gear and ‘respond to the call’ on a kid-sized fire truck wearing fire garb.
There is also a small kitchen area that provides examples of some of the more common causes of fires in the home.
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