The New Bern Firemen’s Museum, established in 1955, preserves the history of two of North Carolina’s oldest chartered fire departments. They also happen to be two of the oldest fire companies in the United States!
A Little History
The fraternal Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company began serving New Bern on May 14th, 1845. During the Civil War, many of the members chose to serve in the Confederate Army, leaving the company short handed. Union soldiers decided to fill in the gap by organizing the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1.
As you can imagine, the two companies were rivals, competing against each other both in town and in firefighting competitions across the state. Both did quite well at these competitions, spurred on, no doubt, by their endless and mutual one-upmanship.
All local fire companies were put to the test on Dec. 1, 1922 when the greatest fire to ever strike New Bern swept through downtown. The fire began at 8:30am in the lumber mill and was not brought under control until midnight. The damage was a mile or more in length, from two to five blocks wide. Over 1,000 buildings were destroyed and approximately 1,800 people were left homeless.
Though both companies were consolidated into the New Bern Volunteer Fire Department in 1928, the now good-natured rivalry continues. You’ll learn all about these two historic fire companies and the many others that have served New Bern over the last 175 years.
Visiting The Museum
The New Bern Firemen’s Museum offers two floors of firefighting history, housed in the original 1928 station house on Hancock Street. The completely renovated, historic brick firehouse is a very fitting locale for the museum.
The first floor is brimming with firefighting equipment, including two steam engines from the 1870s and ’80s. The collection also includes several motorized engines, from as far back as 1914.
You’ll also see rare photographs, Civil War relics, “meet” and learn about Fire Horse Fred, and other interesting tidbits. The on-site gift shop offers firefighting souvenirs and memorabilia, including a fascinating collection of firehouse cookbooks.
The second-floor houses a re-created fire chief’s office, and an exhibition telling the story of the Great Fire of 1922. The second floor also contains a hands-on children’s museum.
New Bern Fireman’s Museum
The museum is located at 420 Broad Street, New Bern, NC 28560 – just a 4 minute walk from our New Bern inn, The Aerie! In fact, our convenient location downtown puts all of the best of New Bern within easy reach. Enjoy access to shopping, dining, museums, galleries, entertainment, and more!