Museum captures Calumet’s firefighting history
Calumet — Built in 1898, the Red Jacket Fire Station in the village of Calumet closed in 1964, and in June 1990, it became the home of the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum.
John Sullivan, museum treasurer, said the museum has items not only from Calumet and Laurium firefighters, but also from many surrounding communities.
“It’s a Copper Country museum,” he said. “The museum board was created in 1991.”
Sullivan said the purpose of the museum is to tell the history of firefighting in Copper Country, and its displays are intended to do that.
On the ground floor of the building there are several vintage fire trucks with the oldest being a 1919 La France, which was the first fire truck in the Copper Country, Sullivan said.
Since the building is old, it is constantly in need of repair and upkeep, and Sullivan said funding for the work comes from donations and funding from the Keweenaw County Historical Park’s Advisory Commission Heritage Grants and the Americana Foundation.
“We got $26,000 to repoint the (Sixth Street) face,” he said.
The $26,000 is comprised of $20,000 from the Americana Foundation, a $5,000 Heritage Grant, and $1,000 from the museum board, Sullivan said. Repointing replaces mortar in the joints of the Jacobsville sandstone blocks from which the building is constructed.
The ground floor of the museum has several vintage fire trucks, but there are no plans to add to the collection.
“We don’t have any more room,” he said.
On the second floor there are reproductions of the fire chief’s office and the room where firefighters slept. There are also the remnants of the pole firefighters slid down from the sleeping room to the ground floor.
Also on the second floor there are pieces of vintage firefighting equipment, such as hose nozzles and even a round canvas net in a frame used to catch people jumping from upper stories of a building during a fire.
The museum is open from early June to early October, so the building is unheated in the winter, but Sullivan said the board applied for a Heritage Grant to buy a heater to put in the basement. The heater will keep the interior of the building from freezing, which will help with preservation of the building and the items on display.
During its season, Sullivan said the museum is open Monday through Saturday, from which revenue is received.
“We make about $2,500 to $3,000 for the summer,” he said.
Most of the visitors to the museum are tourists, Sullivan said, and most of them are from out of state.
“I would say the majority are from Wisconsin,” he said.
The interior of the building has wood floors and wood trim throughout, all of which Sullivan said need to be refinished eventually.
The basement is in need of cleaning, and Sullivan said that will be done soon.
“Then we’ll have more room for storage,” he said.