New York City Fire Museum

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this week, I am visiting three museums with Irish ties: NYC Police Museum, Firefighter Museum, and Merchant’s House Museum.

Judging from the uninspiring New York City Fire Museum website, I felt fairly certain it would be inferior to the Police Museum I visited on Monday. But in the cops vs firefighters debate, firefighters just have better stuff.

The Museum is housed in a former fire house on Spring Street (although they’ve removed the pole which I consider to be a sin). A painted bull (?) greeted me in the entryway and was festively decked out in St. Patrick’s Day regalia. A young woman behind the desk asked me to put my $5 admission fee into a wooden drum and told me that most people like to begin on the first floor.

The main gallery is a hodgepodge of antiquated fire engines, miniatures, fire suits, amateurly framed prints with long captions, and a tool display still under construction. As I noted “crooked tool labels” in my notebook an unidentified museum official standing behind me said “we’re still working on that one.” Feeling guilty and uncharitable, I engaged him in really awkward conversation for a few minutes.

As mediocre as the display values were, I found the material more engaging than the police museum. There is just something intrinsically interesting about fire. And I realized that the old bridge I live near, High Bridge, is an awesome relic of the Croton aqueduct that was the main source of NYC water for years.

The Fire Museum’s 9/11 Memorial exhibition was tastefully executed and unexpectedly moving. Unfortunately, my reflections about the lives lost in that day were cut short when I noticed a wisp of smoke seeping out from a nearby closed door. Instinctively I stepped closer and could hear the screams of children inside. This put me in an awkward position. Should I tell someone or are screaming children in a smoke-filled room just part of the NYC Fire Museum? Then the door opened and museum guide with a Brooklyn accent and no-nonsense demeanor encouraged the kids to find their way to the light. As the children’s screaming grew louder, I hastily retreated to the upstairs gallery.

More neat fire engines. Helmets. Firefighter memorabilia. If a female police officer is technically a “policematron” then is a female firefighter a “firematron?”
Yeah. Firefighters totally win.

New York City Fire Museum (don’t be discouraged by the terrible website)
278 Spring Street between Varick and Hudson
Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00AM to 5:00PM
Sunday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
Adults: $7, Children, Seniors, Students: $5
Very interesting lens for New York history. Bring a friend and share a green beer after.


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