The history of fire fighting in New Jersey’s Capital City dates back to 1747 when the first volunteer department was founded, making it one of the first communities in our 13 original colonies to have an organized fire department. Over the next one hundred and forty-five years the number of volunteer companies grew to thirteen. With the expansion of Trenton into an industrial center, these volunteer companies were phased out and the paid department was formed on April 4, 1892, using many of the volunteer personnel, stations and equipment. While the Department originally dealt with just fire emergencies, it has now grown to provide hazardous material, extrication, high-angle rescue, water rescues, trench rescue and numerous other services, It now consists of seven engine companies, three ladder companies and a rescue company.
The preservation of this history was the reason that The Fire Museum of Trenton was founded in 1959 by Fire Captain (now retired) Edward Gore, and in 1974, renamed for its co-founder and first curator, Meredith Havens. Through the years the Museum has accumulated a collection of fire fighting artifacts and memorabilia, considerably enhanced by the acquisition of the Walter F. Smith collection of local and national fire fighting objects. Approximately 4,000 items and 680 historic photographs are now included in the collection. There is a 501 C3 Board that works in collaboration with the City of Trenton through the Fire Department and the Department of Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture.
The mission of the Meredith Havens Fire Museum of Trenton is to preserve materials, artifacts and skills related to the history of fire fighting in Trenton and surrounding municipalities in order to enhance the public’s knowledge of the fire fighter’s life. The Museum Board takes the educational aspect of this mission very seriously, informing the public of the various duties and functions of the Department, as well as stressing the importance of fire prevention education. The Museum presents history and educational opportunities through formal exhibits, restorations, demonstrations, educational programs, oral history, lectures, and research opportunities.
The Museum serves the community in Trenton, especially the schools and children, as well as the surrounding communities and national and international visitors to New Jersey. School children from throughout the State of New Jersey regularly visit the facility and we attempt to make each visit an educational experience . It will collaborate with Trenton’s cultural and tourism sites through the City’s Division of Culture and share resources and information to enhance Trenton’s growing Heritage Tourism.
The City of Trenton contributed over $200,000 to re-establish the Museum in the historic firehouse building in conjunction with the new Fire Headquarters construction, thus creating opportunities for growth of the Fire Museum. This has allowed the Museum to add several antique hose carts and three pieces of fire apparatus to the collection. It was re-opened on Wednesday, October 6, 2004 during Fire Prevention Week to rave reviews.
Dennis M. Keenan, Chairperson
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