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Engine One Investigation 11/13/2010

The Research

New vs. Old

Left picture is what Engine One looks like today

Right picture is around the turn of the century. 

The First Hagerstown Hose Company was organized in 1815 and was incorporated by the state legislature in December of 1822. It continues to this day to be one of the current six companies that serve Hagerstown and surrounding areas of Washington County. From the beginning The First Hose Company utilized small structures such as sheds and garages, but by the late 1870's it was decided that these were not sufficient. Due to the growing town there was a need for more men and equipment. On January 27, 1881 The First Hose Company purchased a lot from Daniel B. Stouffer on Potomac Street. The construction of the building was done by a local contractor Jacob Dayhoff. Ground breaking took place in July 1881. The building itself was planned to be 100 ft by 40 ft and 3 stories tall. It was then named the Hose Opera House.

During the late 1800's it was not uncommon for firehouses to have an apparatus bay and a large social hall. The First Hose Company would also have a rental property next door to the apparatus bay, which provided income to the company. For many years, the rental property would be a furniture store as well as a dance studio in the third floor ballroom of The First Hose Company. The grand ballrooms, usually located on the upper floors were very ornamental and held functions such as vaudeville acts, dances, banquets and conventions. The "fire halls" were the social and political pulse of the community. There was once a call in 1923 when the firefighters of "Engine One" had to respond to their own address from another incident to extinguish a fire in their own dance hall. The fire was caused by the ignition of decorations by a photographers flash bulb.

 

In 1884 a large bell was commissioned for the Hose Company from the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland. It was placed inside the building's bell tower and came to be known as "Rufus", named for a committee chairman Rufus Hayes. The McShane Foundry is oldest continuously working bell maker in the country.

Until the The First Hose Company became fully mechanized in the early 1900's, they relied on manpower and horsepower to do their jobs. In the late 1800's they relied heavily on hand or horse pulled apparatus. The equipment had to be pulled and or carried to each fire and only the strongest and sturdiest of horses were used by any fire brigade. Such horses were expensive to maintain and were considered as important as the equipment. They were treated well and were housed in the same building as the firefighters. Some horses became so accustomed to their jobs that just the mere sound of the fire alarm bells would cause them to go directly to their harnesses and put their heads through. Some horses could also find their way to a fire down a route they felt was easier or closer than the driver. Because horses were so important great care had to be take to assure their safety and to prevent theft. 

There was a need to protect the investment of the fire equipment and horses, so dogs were brought into the firehouses serving as an alarm system. They not only kept the horses company, but also scared off their threats. Eventually these dogs would follow the brigades to a fire, alerting people to give way. The need for such protection is now gone with the advent of modern systems but the tradition of a fire dog is still held among many. The last dog at The First Hose Company was a bulldog in the 1950's.

Over the years many additions and renovations have been made to the building on Potomac Street. It has been modernized and now has a meeting room, game room and a Fox Garage which houses an antique 1946 Ahrens- Fox Pumper. At the present time the upper floors are being used for commercial and residential purposes not related to the firehouse.

The First Hagerstown Hose Company or Engine One remains on Potomac Street to this day. The 3 story building's architecture is typical of the Victorian age in which it was built. If you glance through the drywall, paint and pipes, still show the charm and elegance that the building had written on it when it was brand new in 1881! Long gone are the sounds of braying horses (or are they?), barking dogs, and dance music (or is it?) from opera house/ ballroom but the modern fire alarm bells that erupt from the firehouse today alert the town of Hagerstown that the First Hose Company is still on the job!

Engine One (The First Hagerstown Hose Company) building on South Potomac Street was added to the Maryland Historical Registry in June, 1970.

~Engine One (The First Hagerstown Hose Company) was researched and prepared by Cathy Gasch and Shannon Greene for the use by Antietam Paranormal Society.