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Historic Hose-Reel Carriage Returns to Friendship Firehouse Museum After Two-Year Restoration

a restored version of an old fire hose reel carriage
The restored hose-reel carriage.

ALEXANDRIA, VA–On Sat. April, 30, the Friendship Firehouse Museum unveiled the newly refurbished historic hose-reel carriage. Built in Alexandria in the North Pitt Street shop of coach maker and Friendship Firehouse member Robert F. Prettyman, and purchased by the Firehouse in 1858, the hose-reel carriage was state of the art technology in its time, providing firefighters a steady, strong stream of water to do their jobs effectively.

old hose reel carriage
Original state of the hose reel carriage.

It is no surprise, though, that nearly 200 years later, the hose-reel carriage was in need of conservation treatment. Paint was flaking off, wheel spokes needed patching, the original condition of the piece was basically deteriorated.

As Conservator Josiah Wagner detailed his conservation process, he stated, “The work of a conservator is to preserve original material rather than restoring the appearance.” However, there was so little left of the original piece that was preservable, Wagner decided to invoke a more extensive restoration process, documenting the history of the piece as he went along.

man attaches bell to hose-reel carriage
Josiah Wagner with the hose-reel carriage

For two years, the carriage had been off-site for restoration, which was made possible thanks to support from the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association, Custom Fire Apparatus, Simpson Development Corp., Virginia Association of Museums Top 10 Endangered Artifact Program, the Historic Alexandria Foundation, Donald F. Simpson, Sr., Jeanne Jacob & Gerry Frank, Marion Moon, David P. Baker, Joe Shumard, Spring2Action Alexandria, and community donors.

“Everyone in the community has a share of the success,” stated Tim winkle, Vice President of Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association.

woman pets Dalmatian standing next to three men
Vice Mayor Jackson pets Dalmatian at unveiling.

When the hose-reel carriage was unveiled this past weekend, dozens gathered at the Friendship Firehouse to witness its return, including Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice mayor Amy Jackson, members of City Council, and Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley.

Some of the hose-reel carriage details include stained glass from 1774, portraits of Benjamin Thomas, Friendship Firehouse Company President, and James Keene, Friendship Firehouse Company member. To the City’s knowledge, this unique carriage is the only one of its kind in existence!

carriage with portrait of man in black and white
The carriage features ornate detail like stained glass and original firehouse member portraits.

Also on display were buckets, hose, axes, and Friendship Firehouse’s mid-19th century suction engine – elaborately decorated with the company’s clasped-hands insignia.

Restoration projects like this one are important in not only preserving, but also reviving the history of Alexandria. They bring the foundational layers of the city to the surface, and ensure they stay there for posterity.

group of people standing in street with carriage
The Friendship Firehouse unveiled the fully restored hose-reel carriage on Saturday April 30. (All photos Lucelle O’Flaherty)

The Friendship Firehouse hose-reel carriage helped to preserve 19th century Alexandria by putting out fires. Today, it helps to preserve 19thcentury Alexandria’s history. “It should be ready to display like this for many, many more decades,” concluded Wagner.

Related: Corey A. Smedley Named City of Alexandria’s Fire Chief 

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