There was once a time when New York City's Fire Department responded to a blaze in a horse drawn steam pumper fire engine. Things have certainly changed in firefighting, but visitors can see antique pieces of fire apparatus on display at the New York City Fire Museum on Spring Street, which documents the city's rich firefighting history.
"In New York, when it was first being built, they had bucket brigades because fires were small," said Gary Urbanowicz, executive director of the museum. "You would pour water on and put them out, but look where we are today with these super high rise narrow buildings."
The museum, housed inside an old firehouse built in 1904, is home to plenty of historical artifacts. After being closed for nearly six months due to COVID-19 restrictionsare, it's now ready for visitors again.
The museum, run by a non-profit created in 1981, is hoping to keep teaching future generations about firefighting in the five boroughs and beyond, not to mention fire prevention and safety education, and pay tribute to the 343 department members who died on September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center. Similar to other cultural institutions in the city, what the future holds for it is still up in the air.
"We have to rely on people coming to visit us, renting our event space, using our gift shop, field trips coming through for schools, and we don't know what the future looks like in the short and long term," said Urbanowicz.
The museum reopens with a timed entry system, with tickets sold online, and will be open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, as opposed to seven days a week as it was prior to the pandemic.
Safety protocols are in place to insure social distancing, including keeping visitors moving in one direction and avoiding crowding. Urbanowicz, whose dad served here when it was an active firehouse, hopes New Yorkers will come discover what they have to offer.
"A lot of people hopefully will be spending more time at events and venues locally, as opposed to doing long-distance traveling, and we're hoping that we can get the benefit of some of that," said Urbanowicz.
The New York City Fire Museum is located on Spring Street between Varick and Hudson Streets. To find out more and get tickets, head to NYCFireMuseum.org.