Family Fun at the Fire Department Museum
Hours: Saturdays & Sundays, 12-5pm
Contact: 201-779-3013; fdm @ hobokenmuseum.org
Admission: $3 for adults, free for children (donations welcome)
Directions: 213 Bloomfield Street
There’s something for everyone at the Hoboken Fire Department Museum. For kids, the star attraction at the former fire station at 213 Bloomfield St. is the shiny red Ahrens Fox fire engine, circa 1932; this “Cadillac” of fire trucks has been meticulously restored and occasionally stars in civic parades.
Kids can get a boost into the driver’s seat for a photo op by one of the retired firemen who assembled and care for the collection, or one of the Museum’s staff who are now working there every weekend. Parents are welcome to climb up as well. You can even ring the big brass bell. Kids also love the photo of one of the many fire dogs who thrilled to the sound of a fire alarm and bounded up to their designated spot on the truck.
For grownups, the Fire Department Museum is a treasure trove of fire gear and memorabilia documenting the evolution of tools and techniques used by Hoboken’s bravest in battling fires that spread quickly in a city of connected row houses, working piers and active factories. Some of the fiercest fires from the early 1900s were widely documented on postcards, the “instant messages” of the last century. One of the highlights for visitors of a certain age is the framed 1947 photo of fire captain Marty Sinatra posing on a fire truck with his son, who at the time was the most popular singer in the country.
Visitors can now drop by the Fire Department Museum any weekend between noon and 5 p.m., thanks to support from the Hoboken Historical Museum. Admission is just $3 for adults (children under 12 admitted free), and you can spend as much time as you like exploring the displays of photographs and news clippings documenting the fires—large and small—that tested the mettle of generations of Hoboken’s firefighters.
In its early days, Hoboken, like many towns, had an all-volunteer force. In exchange for their service, the men were “exempt” from certain civic duties, including certain taxes and street repair. That’s why the building bears a sign reading “Association of Exempt Firemen.” The city established a paid professional fire department in 1891. The building at 213 Bloomfield briefly served as a firehouse in the 1880s, and the spacious second-floor room is still used for meetings by firefighters. This building and several other firehouses in Hoboken are on the National Register of Historic Places.