Cleveland has a fascinating history. So many “firsts” happened right here in our city, from the first rock and roll concert to the first separation of conjoined twins. Clevelander’s spearheaded innovations in the world of safety, too. Garrett Morgan, who was born in 1877, moved to Cleveland in 1895 and immediately began a career of tinkering. One of his greatest innovations was the smoke hood, which preceded the gas mask (but was significantly cheaper than the era’s oxygen masks) but still provided firefighters with an extra line of defense against suffocating smoke. The smoke hood saved lives in and beyond Greater Cleveland, but that’s just one of many helpful inventions used by brave firefighters. For the full history of firefighting, you’ll want to swing by the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center in Cleveland. Check it out:
As you make your way over Hope Memorial Bridge, it’s easy to get distracted by the hustle and bustle of the city…
After all, you’ll find yourself surrounded by iconic skyscrapers and stadiums. Just up the road is Erie Street Cemetery, an eerie reminder that this area was once the edge of Cleveland rather than the heart of the city.
… so much so that you might miss the iconic Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center right on Carnegie.
The Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center is a unique local museum that’s just barely two decades old. For many locals, it is a location that they have yet to visit … and, truthfully, it’s one of the more
important museums to visit. It celebrates advancements that have saved lives, as well as the contributions of local lifesaving firefighters.
The museum operates in a building that was the former Fire Station #28 and the Cleveland Fire Alarm Office and Dispatch Center.
If the building looks vaguely familiar in its design, that’s likely because it was constructed in tandem with the Terminal Tower. From 1926 to 1982, this site served as an active fire station. It also housed the Fire Department Dispatch Center, which was active until 2002. This structure predates the Hope Memorial Bridge, as well as much of the surrounding architecture.
The museum isn’t huge, but the pieces it displays play a huge part in local history.
Now a historic landmark, this cool time capsule of a building hosts more than 3,000 firehouse journals, a variety of apparatuses that assisted in past firefighting, and even photographs of firefighters that once used these historic objects. In fact, cataloging is still taking place … and you can volunteer to help with that process!
Rotating exhibits show visitors what firefighting looked like in years past, with special emphasis on local fire departments.
While you’ll spot many familiar community names on pieces of equipment in the exhibits, you might even encounter history from communities beyond Greater Cleveland. That’s because the museum strives to preserve firefighting history from a dozen local counties: Erie, Huron, Lorain Medina, Cuyahoga, Summit, Lake, Geauga, Portage, Ashtabula, Trumbull, and Mahoning.
The museum itself has a story to tell and it only exists thanks to the efforts of local firefighting history enthusiasts.
The idea of establishing a fire museum in Cleveland is decades old, but it finally came to fruition when Cleveland Fire Station No. 28 closed in 2002. The Western Reserve Fire Museum at Cleveland, Inc. (formerly the Western Reserve Fire Buffs Foundation) reached an agreement for a long-term lease in 2003, but the building needed a
lot of work Like, $3 million in work. Various local firefighters jump to action by donating their time, skills, and money to help restore the building and create a space that allowed history to flourish.
Today, the museum is largely volunteer-led, and it’s open to the public Wednesday through Saturday.
You’ll want to budget time to pay a visit to this cool museum and local landmark. There’s so much knowledge and history tucked into its walls, and it’s just one of many museums that work together to tell the story of Greater Cleveland.
There’s something here to delight visitors of all ages, from the littlest history buffs to those that have actually lived through historic events.
If you bring along kids for the tour, they’ll love the Kids Korner. There are toys and coloring projects to help little visitors express their excitement and apply the knowledge they learned during their visit.
And, since history and education go hand-in-hand, you can expect to walk away from your visit having learned something new.
Even if you serve as a firefighter in your own community, you might be surprised at what firefighting used to look like. We’ve come a long way, but the objects displayed in the museum put into perspective where innovation first started and how it evolved over time.
Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for kids.
Your funding will go toward helping the museum make continued improvements and, believe it or not, saving lives. The museum’s offerings of fire prevention and safety education programs keep our community prepared, and education is the best defense against disaster.
This truly is the hottest museum in town.
Explore Greater Cleveland’s fiery past at this cool museum.
There’s so much to see at The Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center in Cleveland.
Love local history? Why not make it into a road trip? There are several interesting museums beyond Greater Cleveland that belong on your bucket list.