Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Jacksonville Fire Museum

We just got back from another road trip, but as I'm trying to pull the house back together, I'll just do a small local attraction today. The pictures are kind of blurry since I forgot my regular camera and the cell phone kind of sucks.

If you live in Jacksonville and are running out of things to do with your kids this summer and are saving your cash for school supplies, try the Jacksonville Fire Museum, located down between the river and the football stadium. I recommend parking under the overpass to keep your car in the shade- there's not really any other place to park nearer anyway. Admission is free.

The place is pretty dinky, but it has enough to keep kids entertained for a while, depending on the age. Group tours are available if you schedule ahead, and we actually half-tagged along with a seniors group who was there. Otherwise we were the only visitors, and the guy on duty was available to answer any questions we had.

Some of the most entertaining parts were obviously not actual exhibits.

On display are a variety of artifacts and photos from Jacksonville's great fire in the early 20th century, equipment through the years, fire fighter children's toys, and several restored engines. If you are not with a large group of children, you can climb on the 1902 crank-start engine and ring the bell. It's still a working engine (not in service, obviously), so they don't like tons of kids climbing on it with a small adult-to-child ratio. Within seconds my kids were flying down the road to put out a fire at the Jedi Temple, from the sounds of it.

Other carts were pulled by hand or horses. This particular engine ran on coal. Not for climbing, but just gorgeous.

The guide had some great stories about the days of horses. They were big, heavy-duty draft horses with great endurance and high intelligence. It was said after a year on the job, most of the horses knew which city block to go to based on the combination of bells the signal had. They would even unlatch their pen, open the main doors, and back-up against the wagons ready to be hitched up when the alarm sounded. One retired horse was sold to a local milkman, and many days his horse and delivery cart would go missing, but both were found every time at the scene of a fire, the horse standing patiently and waiting for his wagon to be used.

The upstairs section is undergoing repairs, so only the main floor open. Outside is a memorial to firefighters who gave their lives in the service of others over the past 100+ years.

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