Hopkinsville Museum Shares Latest "Snapshots in Time" Artifact, 110 Years of Fire Run Records
In the next installment of the Hoptown Chronicle and Museums of Historic Hopkinsville-Christian County collaboration, "Snapshots in Time," the museum's executive director Alissa Keller features a Hopkinsville Fire Department fire run record dated October 3, 1924—a particularly noteworthy blaze out of 110 years' worth of records kept by the fire department. Keller speaks to Austin Carter about the featured item.
"[The fire run records] date from 1889 to 1999," Keller begins. "Every time the fire department went out onto a call, they had paperwork to file about each one. The records include the date of the fire, the location, who owned the building, what happened, how many feet of hose were used, the firefighters who responded, and who was absent. It's just a lot of really good information."
"We looked at one date in particular dated October 3, 1924," she continues. "It was the date that our fire department, the central fire station, burned. The record states it was from some unknown cause in the attic. It was a pretty devastating fire for the building itself, but all the people...and trucks got out. The second floor was totally gutted, and the tower clock came crashing down in the street, very dramatically, while the clock was chiming midnight."
"We wrote about that record and what it tells us and took a deep dive into what the building was before the fire and how quickly it was rebuilt. Now, the building we know in Hopkinsville today as the old fire station is actually a museum that our museum organization operates and manages."
"These would be a gold mine for property research," Keller says. "So, if you're buying a certain property in town, it'd be a great place to go and look at what might have happened on that property. That's the good news. The bad news is they're not indexed, so unless you know a date, you don't really know where to go to look to find them. But overwhelmingly, this gives us a little glimpse into the past, into how the community survived, how things got rebuilt, and how one thing can affect another. It paints a different portrait of who we are as people, a town, and a community as a whole."
Keller says that while there were a few tongue-in-cheek nods to the fire department suffering the type of blaze it was built to protect, the situation was, by and large, deemed a tragic one. Seven to eight firefighters were present at the time of the fire, as well as the family of a firefighter who lived on the second floor of the fire station. The records indicate the family was forced to evacuate so quickly that the children were still in their nightclothes.
The fire department operated out of a stable after the fire in October 1924 before returning to the building in January 1925. While a replacement clock tower wasn't initially included in the rebuild, a new clock tower was eventually installed in 1927 after a majority of citizens expressed an interest in adding one. The building served as the fire station until 1964, after which it housed various businesses until becoming a museum in 2008.
Keller adds that just last month, on March 31, 2023, straight-line winds from a large storm front blew out the building's windows and one wall. "So, that's another part of the story," she says. "Now, the building has suffered fire and storm damage."
Some fire-run records had become too fragile with age to display and are now in museum storage. However, Keller says that most records are available to thumb through at the Pennyroyal Area Museum in downtown Hopkinsville. "We always encourage people to find the date they were born. There was a grass fire the day I was born, so nothing too dramatic in that sense. We have some of that out, as well as some of our local fire memorabilia. We'd love for people to come see them."