___________January 14, 2016__________

Our Adventures:  Engine House #5

In our family, I try to have a fair amount of educational field trips without overwhelming our ‘schooling’.  It’s worked out to once a month.  Once week, if you count all of our monthly outings.  We go to hymn sing, one week we go to a school group activity, one week we do a hike or something outdoors, and one week we do a field trip.  That fills up a month, and doesn’t seem like *too* much to us.

As I’ve said, I’ve had some trouble with the group I was in and the field trip schedule.  So I’ve had to come up with my own field trips, this year.  So far here’s the list:

** September: ArtPrize 15
** October:  Civil War Muster
** November:  HCA’s ‘The Snow Queen’ (full-length play)
** December: 3-day trip to Historical Indianapolis

11034268_444814559009049_3310670117790798905_nSo I got it in my head to go to the Engine House #5 museum in Allendale (picture borrowed from their FB page, since mine isn’t as pretty).  I’ve been by it too many times to count – my dad lives just down the street from it.  Wasn’t sure how to do it, though, being that I was doing this visit just for (((one))) family.  But if there was to be a school group there or something, we could be in the way.  So I decided to call and see if the day/time I was planning on going would work for the museum.

It’s SUCH a good thing that I did, because I got to talk to a guy named Jeff Blum, who turns out to be the historian on location.  Apparently he doesn’t do the job full-time (has other work), so in calling and giving them a heads-up to our visit, Jeff was able to work it out that he could be there and give us the actual tour!  (So if you should want to go, DEFINITELY call ahead and make sure that Jeff or someone like him can be there to take you through!)

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We got to the barn, paid our admission (adults $4/ children 12 and under $1 ea., per the website), and Jeff got started taking us around.  He showed us where Engine House #5 used to stand, in downtown Grand Rapids.  It was moved – brick by brick! – to Allendale after it was decommissioned, and the story is fascinating to hear.   This engine house is a little bigger than the original, but it was still very tight to get thru in some places – they would say no more than 30 people at a time (there were six of us, and really it felt like 10 would be the max for a really good experience.

IMG_1038 (416x555)There are many ‘machines’ in the museum – hose wagons, fire engines, pump trucks and more.  There’s a hose for the kids to lift, a uniform, hat and oxygen tank for them to suit up in, while hearing the stories of how the fire pole was invented, why they have spiral staircases (it has to do with lonely horses!), and how the dalmatian became the mascot of the fire station.  There was a signal horn to try, and lots of stories, going all the way back to the Revolutionary times of bucket brigades!

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IMG_1059 (416x555)He told us how they used to have to hang the hoses in the bell tower to dry out by climbing ladders (this engine house has a spiral staircase that kids can climb up a ways!).  Harrowing experience if you have a fear of heights (and totally optional).

There are two floors of artifacts, hands-on materials, and stories to experience.  My personal favorite was this whole wall with pictures of all the original fire houses in greater Grand Rapids, and what’s become of them.

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I also really liked the story of how the original fire plugs came to be – and here’s a picture of the original →.  Jeff made it really engaging for the kids, and really loved the history of it.  His enthusiasm was really infectious, and he kept our attention the entire time.

On January 29th, there’s to be an Open House at the museum, with presenters dressed up as different characters from history, including Benjamin Franklin – who started the first fire districts – and Mrs. O’Leary, whose cow was said to have burned down the entire city of Chicago!  If you can’t get out during the day or would like something a little more special, yet, please go to their Facebook page to get more information.

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10530660_751870788185076_7089432395793173392_n 313670_478461512192673_1033959190_nJeff told us that Engine house number 9 was turned into a restaurant, so I drove up to Leonard street and took the kids for a late lunch at ‘The Mitten’, which advertises artisan pizza and handcrafted beer.  (We didn’t embibe, obviously.)  It’s… definitely a bar, inside – word to the wise – but the outside is all original and beautiful.  The building still has its brass pole and the big wooden fire-barn doors, too!  I wish I could recommend the pizza (or the fruit crisp – we got dessert, to try to make up for the horrible pizza, but it was even worse!).  The food was just awful.   They do have pretzels – monster ones.  Maybe they’d be good, if you were to go?  I’m sorry I can’t say good things about the pizza.  And to our disappointment, the place is done up in sports memorabilia, not fire station decor.  It was still worth it to go there, for us.

WP_20160114_006 (555x457)I also drove up Grandville Ave. past Engine House #6, just because it’s so darn cute.  I’m betting people are most familiar with this one, because it’s right across the street from Founders’ Brewery, downtown Grand Rapids.  It’s easy to hop on the expressway a block or so down from there, too, to get home.

And of course you know that we always have a little ‘blessing’ or laugh on the way home from our field trips.  Just a Divinely added bonus, of sorts.  Take a look at what passed us, on our way home!  A fireman’s hat!

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I *SO* want to recommend the visit to the Allendale Engine House #5 historical museum.  It was absolutely fascinating to me, and the kids really loved it.  We learned so much more than I ever expected, and I owe a huge thank you to Jeff Blum and his willingness to educate the kids – and to make it fun and memorable!

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