I do believe the kids had the most fun today at Alexandria’s Annual Friendship Firehouse Festival. Celebrating the 238th anniversary of the company, the Firehouse Museum on S. Alfred between King and Prince opened its doors to the public. Merchants sold their wares and books at booths. Firemen showed off their shiny red engines. Free red helmets were popular.
Originally established in 1774, Friendship is the oldest fire company in Alexandria. The original firehouse was near King and S. Royal. The Alfred Street house was built in 1855, and remodeled in 1871. A new addition was erected in 1972.
Equipment, uniforms and regalia interprets the history of firefighting across America. Volunteers were expected to bring their own buckets.
One document explains the history of firemarks, which can be seen throughout the historic district of Alexandria. I’ve heard tour guides in Old Town say that firemen used these when they arrived on the scene. No plaque, no help.
I never thought that was true, and the document confirms my suspicions. That practice did occur in London in the 17th and 18th Century, but not in America. In some cities, the firemarks served as advertisements for the insurance companies and deterred arsonists. Units in Old Town were volunteer.
My thanks to Catherine Weinraub for her tour talk, and to the Friendship Fire Company. And while we're at it, let's thank our current firefighters!