Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology

Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology is the only place to find all the history of Marion County.
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On Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1883, the fire which would become know as the Great Fire broke out in a store at the S...
11/27/2019

On Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1883, the fire which would become know as the Great Fire broke out in a store at the SE corner of Main (1st Ave.) and Ocklawaha (Silver Springs Blvd.). According to the Ocala Banner fire edition quoted in the book Ocala Fire Department 1885-1985, the bell on the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at the SE corner of Ft. King and Main, was used to give the alarm. Bucket lines were used to fight the fire with what little water there was. More than five blocks were burned down according to the Banner article, basically covering the area from what is now Silver Springs Blvd. to Ft. King between Osceola and 1st Ave., and from east 1st Ave. to west 1st Ave. between Broadway and Ft. King, with some structures south of this second swath area also burning.

This post is an article about the fire from the Jacksonville Times-Union. An Ocala telegraph office must have survived for Jacksonville to have gotten the word the same day the fire happened, but I couldn't find a telegraph office listed in the 1884 Sanborn map. I also couldn't find one on the 1886 map.

The article states that 2/3 of the businesses and 5 houses burned down. It was this fire the led to the development of the water system and fire departments we have been posting about.

11/27/2019

I won't be posting on November 28 & 29.

11/27/2019

The museum will be closed November 28 & 29.

I found a larger version of the image posted on November 23. It is not the original of that image, but it appears that t...
11/26/2019

I found a larger version of the image posted on November 23. It is not the original of that image, but it appears that this image and the one from the 23rd share a common source.

This is from a reproduction of a post card that had a colorized version of a black and white original. The faces are missing on both this version and the image from the 23rd so it is possible that the image from the 23rd came from an original of this post card.

It looks like the color yellow was misprinted when the post card was made to begin with. There also appear to be errors made be the artist who colorized the image. Some of the white trim on the building and the white areas on the car have been colored over with red. The areas to the left of the second story windows have been left in black and white as have the interiors of the garage bays. There are also areas that have been left in black and white around the people in the car and around parts of the rear of the truck.

There is no way of telling if any of the people or the dog were in the original photograph the post card was taken from. The way the people on the right hand side overlap might be a hint that they were in the initial photo; the objects that artists added to post card images usually don't overlap like this and don't have this much detail.

There was a period in time when a spur line came off the railroad tracks on Osceola to serve the depot behind the Ocala House hotel. The spur line broke off from the main line just south of southern 2nd St. and joined the main line just north of Ocklawaha (Silver Springs Blvd.). This spur line can be seen in the lower left corner of first image.

The second image is a detail from the 1912 Sanborn map showing the area of Osceola near the fire station. What is labeled South on the map is now known as Broadway.

Today's image is another view of Hazel Park at the corner of the Osceola and Broadway. It comes from the book Ocala Fire...
11/25/2019

Today's image is another view of Hazel Park at the corner of the Osceola and Broadway. It comes from the book Ocala Fire Department 1885-1985. Hazel Park was maintained by the Ocala Fire Department.

The 1894 fire station is at the right hand side of the photograph. Faintly visible above the roof line is one of the two chimneys on the north side of the building. The building had 4 chimneys. The other two were on the south side of the building.

The building behind the seated people is the 2 story Ocala City Hall. The 1 story projection coming off the south side of it is the city 'lock-up.'

Rising above the roof of the fire station is the roof line of the north end of the Temple Theater. The presence of the Temple Theater indicates the photo dates to after 1910.

Hazel Park is where the 1941 replacement fire station will be built.

This image comes from the book Ocala Fire Department 1885-1985. It shows the 1894 fire station from across Osceola. The ...
11/24/2019

This image comes from the book Ocala Fire Department 1885-1985. It shows the 1894 fire station from across Osceola.

The photo was taken some time between 1895 and 1910. The rooftop in the distance to the right of the fire station is the old Ocala armory. It was built in 1895 and would not have been visible from this angle if the Temple Theater of 1910 had been built.

There are two signs visible inside the fire station bay on the right. The left hand sign says Hose Co. No. 4; the right hand sign says Hook & Ladder Co. 1. When the fire department was reorganized in 1901, there were three fire companies authorized at the time: Marion Hose Company No. 1, Protective Hose Company No.4 and Hook and Ladder No. 1. The signs show that in spite of the front of the fire station saying Hose Co. No. 1, when the fire department was reorganized it was Hose Company No. 4 that was housed in the fire station on Magnolia, which means Marion Hose Company No. 1 was housed in the fire station on Magnolia that was eventually phased out.

There is a large alarm bell between the garage bays. To the left of the alarm bell there is a device that appears to be two smaller bells. These resemble bells on a telephone.

The rope that is hanging from the bell tower is still present and can be faintly seen to the left of the 2nd floor central window. At some point the fire chief had to release a statement asking the public not to ring the bell a second time for the same fire. It seems people would ring the bell to report a fire, the fire department would go out, and either the same people or other people would ring the bell a second time for the same fire. The firemen would think there was a second fire and the chief would send one of the wagons back to the fire station in response, diverting resources from the fire they were fighting.

The small bells would seem to indicate that by the time this photo was taken, fires were reported by phone. The rope still hanging down indicates that phones were not present in every household.

This image comes from one of the museum's collections. It is a photograph of the 1894 Ocala fire station from an unknown...
11/23/2019

This image comes from one of the museum's collections. It is a photograph of the 1894 Ocala fire station from an unknown source.

Obviously part of the original image is missing. The original must have had the rest of the word FIRE in its caption and from the proportions probably included more words so this is a detail of a larger original. The person who donated the collection took photographs of images with excellent equipment so the lack of detail and blurring in the image were in the the source material. There are other images in the collection that had enlargements made of part of them and the enlargements by the donor are as crisp as the original.

This image appears to have been glued to a styrofoam block to be used in an exhibition by the donor. There is no other version of this image in the collection.

The lack of clear detail makes it difficult to date the image. The smaller vehicle appears to be the one that was purchased in 1906 that seems to have still been in use when the 1926 W. C. Fields film was filmed in Ocala.

11/22/2019

I found some more information on the Ocala fire department's steam engine in the museum's copy of the book Ocala Fire Department 1885-1985. The steam engine really did exist and was used to pump water. In newspaper articles it was sometimes called simply 'the engine.'

On April 21, 1885, the Ocala Banner reported that Marion Steam Fire Engine Company No. One had been formed and had bought a steam fire engine.

On April 22, 1885, the Ocala Banner reported the steam fire engine could get up a head of steam in 10 minutes and that with the cisterns around the courthouse it could handle any fires around the square. For people whose houses and businesses were not around the square or on ponds or 'branches' there was a recommendation of having a cistern on their property.

On May 13, 1885 the city of Ocala passed an ordinance saying the fire department of Ocala would be made up of the Marion Steam Fire Engine Company No. One and the Ocala Hook and Ladder Company No. One (both made up of volunteers) and any other companies later formed. The first company at a fire got a bonus and companies who complied with the ordinance got $150.00 per year. After the ordinance other volunteer companies were formed and were also considered to be part of the fire department.

On November 22, 1885, the Ocala Banner reported that five buildings burned down before "the engine could be started." This probably means before the engine could get up a head of steam.

On October 13, 1887, the Ocala Banner reported that the firemen brought the engine to the courthouse square. It appears the engine was turned on and managed to pump water. The paper said it took 11 minutes to get the steam up and 2 hours for the horses to get the engine to the square. I don't know where they started from, but to take 2 hours to get the engine to the square seems really poor.

On February 26, 1888, the Ocala Banner reported that four businesses and one residence burned down because the suction pump hose on the engine broke. There had to be a bucket brigade. The engine had its steam up but could not pump water. Some of the buildings on Magnolia were saved because young men with wet blankets were on the roofs.

On March 26, 1889, the Ocala Banner that because there had been so many resignations from the Ocala Fire Department, a group of men formed Protective Hose Cart No. One. This may have been the forerunner of the company that was housed on Magnolia when the fire department was reorganized in 1901.

On March 26, 1889, the Ocala Banner reported the fire chief had resigned.

Perhaps the steam engine was no longer needed because the water system was finished in 1888. When you have hydrants with water under pressure, you do not need a steam engine pump anymore.

Yesterday while searching through old issues of the Ocala Banner on-line to see if I could find anything about the steam...
11/22/2019

Yesterday while searching through old issues of the Ocala Banner on-line to see if I could find anything about the steam fire engine that the Ocala fire department was reported in Ocali Country as having, I found this article in the July 19, 1907 issue about the history of the Ocala Fire Department. The article is in two columns, so the first column in each image has to be read first before going to the second column. I tried to stitch the images together but couldn't get it to work. The article includes a photo of the 1894 fire station with 3 wagons, 4 horses, and several firemen.

On top of the problem with having the article chopped up, this particular page was lighter than usual. I tried fixing that but nothing made them better and the attempts made the photo worse.

There are also errors in the article. It says Ocala finally got a water system in 1898 when according to the Sanborn maps and Ocali Country in was in 1888.

Here are the highlights of the article:
1. In 1885 Ocala bought a fire engine and built 4 large cisterns around the corners of the square. The cisterns were kept full by conduits leading from the courthouse. It is not clear what this means - was it water from the gutter on the building or was in just run-off from the grounds. Enough hose was bought to get water into the cisterns from Spencer pond. (No idea where that was).
2. In 1885 a fire company was formed.
3. In 1888 the fire department was reorganized. The article says 1898 incorrectly. Two fire stations were built and 4 companies of volunteers were set up. Since the 1891 book on Ocala shows photos of 3 fire stations, either the article is incorrect or the third was built later. By the way, the phrase 'fire station' here is to be taken with a grain of salt. One of the 'fire stations' was simply a shed under the bell tower.
4. In 1888 the Ocala water system was completed. The article incorrectly says 1898.
5. The fire department was volunteer until 1901 when a paid department was started. Other issues of the banner indicate that even after 1901 there were still volunteers at least up until this article was published. The volunteers assisted the paid firemen.
6. The paid staff was a chief and three firemen. It seems the chief at some point was an elected office. At the time of this article there were 17 volunteers.
7. Alarms were sent into the fire department by telephone. There were about 70 fire alarms per year.
8. The equipment consisted of 4 horses, a chemical engine (a car with a lot of fire extinguishers), 2 hose trucks, 1 hook & ladder, 91 hydrants.

I ran across a lot of mentions of fire in the Banner about fires. Some highlights:
1. It seems to have been a practice when there was a fire for people to fire guns in the air to help guide the fire department to the fire.
2. There was a fire in Marti City, where the cigar factories were. The building on fire could not be reached with water from a hose, so the firemen threw sand on the fire. After this Marti City started a volunteer fire department of its own. According to the Sanborn maps, Marti City got water from the Ocala Water Works, which at the time was a private company, and had four hydrants, had a volunteer fire department of 16 men and two hose reels.
3. At some point the water pressure coming out of the fire hydrants was so low that water from the fire hoses could not reach the second floor of buildings. An investigation was held to see if the Ocala Water Works company was fulfilling its contract as regards to water pressure.
4. Belleview had a volunteer fire department of its own. This is obviously logical but this is the first time I have seen it in print. There was no mention of the equipment. I wonder if other communities had volunteer companies.
5. Electrical fires were a big problem.
6. Charity events were held to buy equipment for the volunteer firemen and to equipment a 'reading' room for them.

Today's image is a photograph from one of the museum's collections. Each time I look through this collection I find some...
11/21/2019

Today's image is a photograph from one of the museum's collections. Each time I look through this collection I find something I hadn't noticed before, and this photo is one of those things.

The photo shows a group of 11 firemen standing in front of the 1894 fire station. They are wearing helmets and long coats that make them look more like firemen rather than competitors at a sporting event. There are 4 horses and 3 wagons.

Notice the wire/rope that is visible in front of the center window on the second floor. It also can be seen to run below the window toward the ground. This was probably connected to the bell in the tower. The wire/rope clearly runs past the alarm bell seen between the two garage doors.

There is something that the light seems to be reflecting off of in the right hand garage bay. Whatever it is, it is visible in other photos. There is also something in the left hand garage bay that the light is reflecting off of.

This may be an early photo of the Ocala Fire Department rather than one of the volunteer companies. Maybe.

According to Ocali Country (1966), "the town became the proud processor of a steam fire engine in 1888 - Marion Steam Engine No. 1 - and in that same year an ordinance was passed establishing the Ocala Fire Department, equipped with horse drawn host carts and a light hook-and-ladder truck."

This quote raises several issues and may contain inaccuracies. The 1888, 1891, 1895, 1901 and 1906 Sanborn maps make no mention of a steam engine in their descriptions of the fire department. The 1891 Clarke book on Ocala make no mention of a steam engine. The first Sanborn map to mention paid firemen is the 1901 one.

If there were no paid firemen until 1901, who ran the steam engine? Where was it housed? Why is it not mentioned in the Sanborn maps?

While researching this morning in old newspaper issues on-line, I found something new. The May 8, 1891 issue of the Ocala Banner has an article on a fire at the Florida Central and Peninsular Railway depot which appears to have been near where the old Union Station is. The F. C. & P. railroad lost two loaded box cars and the Silver Springs, Ocala & Gulf Railroad lost two loaded box cars and three empty ones. The article mentions that the Young America Hose Company was the first one the scene - which must have been quite a run from where their hose reel was housed at south 2nd St. & Tuscawilla - and the last to leave. The paragraph mentioning the Young America Hose Company ends with "we cannot forget the work performed by the colored co-workers in the department."

The article concludes the fire at the depot - which included several oil explosions - was "one of the hottest and brightest that has illuminated Ocala since the Thompson-Miller-Jefford's fire over three years ago and next to it in amount of loss."

This image is taken from It's The Old Army game, partially filmed in Ocala in 1926. The image shows the bell tower of th...
11/20/2019

This image is taken from It's The Old Army game, partially filmed in Ocala in 1926.

The image shows the bell tower of the 1894 fire station. The view is from the south. The direction is able to be determined because the east side of the tower had a projection that the other three sides did not.

Coming off the east side of the tower is what looks like a wire attached to the thin metal bar. I can't tell what the metal bar is attached to or what the cross beams below the bell are for. There is also something behind the crossbeams. Perhaps that is the system used to ring the bell when the photo was taken.

The clapper on the bell has a small visible projection at the bottom of it. There is a small hole on the projection. Perhaps at some point there was a rope or wire attached to this hole. While deciding which picture to use today I look through several images of the 1894 fire station and in the older pictures there was a rope or wire hanging down to the level of the doors on the front side of the fire station. The second image is a photo that was posted on Nov. 7, and the rope/wire can be seen coming down past the center of the window of the tower and to the left of the center window of the second floor.

Once downtown Ocala got electric fire alarms scattered around, the alarms were connected to the bell somehow. As posted before, the city was divided into sections. Each section was assigned a number. When a fire alarm was pulled the bell in the tower of the fire station would ring the number of times that corresponded to the number that had been assigned to the section where the alarm was. The hospital, for example, was assigned the number 8.

This system was still being used at the time of the film since it plays a part in the plot of the movie. With the system of fire alarms in place there was no longer a need for the public to run to the fire station and pull the rope/wire hanging from the front of the building and the way the bell was rung was changed to tie it into the fire alarm system.

I am not sure when the fire bell stopped being used when the alarms rang at the fire station. The system of the fire alarms making the bell ring a certain number of times was discontinued at some point but I don't know if that meant the bell was silenced. I know that when I lived on 2nd St. the bell in the tower was no longer rung. Once I experienced the fire station up close and personal when the alarm went off when I was walking up Broadway and had gotten even with the middle door on the 1941 fire station; an alarm rang but not a bell. Urban legend has it that the crack that is currently in the bell is the result of the bell being wildly rung for hours when the end of WW II was announced.

Address

307 SE 26th Terrace East Hall
Ocala, FL
34471

Opening Hours

Monday 10:00 - 15:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 15:00
Thursday 10:00 - 15:00
Friday 10:00 - 15:00
Saturday 10:00 - 15:00

Telephone

(352) 236-5245

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