Hello fire history fans! I’m Shannon Quigley, a museum assistant at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary. This summer I’ll be going around Calgary taking pictures of postcards from the museum’s collection in front of buildings as they stand today. I’ve seen this done before and thought it would be a great way to add some context. I’ll also throw some photographs from the museum’s archives into the mix.
There’s no better place to start than with Station No. 1, which served as Calgary’s Fire Headquarters from 1912 – 1973. When the fire department (and its trucks!) outgrew the early 20th century structure, Station No. 1 moved a block north and Fire Headquarters relocated to Station No. 16 in the southeast. But the old Station No. 1 still stands at the corner of 1 St & 6 Ave S.E
You’ll notice that I’m wearing some pretty colourful gloves (note to self: wear white gloves next time!). To keep it real I brought the actual postcards to photograph on site and wore gloves to prevent natural oils on my hands from damaging the artefacts.
#1 Firehall Motor Apparatus, circa 1917-1918. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection. (94-01-1132) . Calgary’s Fire Department was the first in Western Canada to use motorized vehicles, and – judging from the above postcard – they liked to show them off!
Fire Headquarters, Calgary, early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection. (94-01-1134). Fire vehicles have been decorated for parades and events since the days of horse drawn hose carts. We don’t know what special event is depicted in this postcard, but we’re glad someone took a photo!
Two Firefighters and a dog outside Fire Station No. 1, n.d. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection. (PI-A2002-0032). I’ve included this photograph because if you look closely you’ll notice that there are dogs in the postcards as well! Check out close up views here and here.
Five Views of Fire Headquarters
Our collection of postcards includes 30 views of Calgary’s Fire Headquarters – if you count duplicates. Old Station No. 1 is one of the best remaining examples of an early Fire Hall in Canada. And while the building hasn’t served as active station since 1973, it continues to serve as a reminder of Calgary’s history as a leader in firefighting practices.
Left: Fire Hall 1, Calgary, early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1120). Right: #1 Firehall Motor Apparatus, circa 1917-1918. Firefighters Museum of Calgary (94-01-1132).
Calgary’s Fire Headquarters incorporated the very latest in firefighting technology when it was built in 1912. The striking facade, consisting of five bay doors, was large enough to accommodate the Department’s expanding fleet. Located on a corner, the station was built on an angle so that fire trucks and horse drawn wagons, which had very wide turning circles, could speed out in any direction. The new engines, or ‘buzz wagons,’ could go a whooping 64 kilometers per hour!
The second level of the building consisted of dorms, offices, and lounges. This reflected the professionalization of firefighting. Calgary’s Volunteer Fire Brigade was supplemented by 40 full-time paid firefighters in 1909 and the new Headquarters was built to accommodate them.
Candid shot, early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1123).
Postcards in the collage ‘Five Views of Fire Headquarters’:
Best Equipped Fire Station in the West, Calgary, Alta., circa 1913. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1149 recto).
Fire Headquarters, Calgary, Alta., circa 1912. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (FIC2013.000.005R recto).
Fire Headquarters, Calgary, Alta., early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1131 recto).
Fire Headquarters, Calgary, early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1134 recto).
The Fire Hall, Calgary, Alta., Canada, early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1148 recto).