Pick and Sledge

Curious Stories from the American West

100 Years Ago Today: Golden Buys Its First Fire Truck

Colorado Transcript, March 6, 1919
A better picture of Golden Fire Department’s Engine No.1 from 1919
Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Department

In 1880, the Golden Fire Department rose from the proverbial ashes of three different, independent fire fighting companies: Excelsior Hose, Everett Hook and Ladder Company, and Loveland Hose Company. Coming together to form some kind of fire fighting Voltron, each company was able to contribute a different piece of equipment that it had acquired during its brief existence. Excelsior Hose had the best engine, called the “Fire King,” Everett Hook and Ladder had the best truck, and Loveland Hose had the best hose.

Before the merger, Excelsior Hose and Everett Hook and Ladder were both stationed at the Golden Central Fire Station, which was located on 12th street downtown, near where Meyer Hardware now stands. Somewhat poetically, the Central Station was situated across from the Astor Hotel, Golden’s first hotel, built in 1867 as the town’s first stone-constructed building, a fire-resistant structure in a town built out of wood, which also symbolized the permanence of Golden as a town.

Competing fire fighting companies housed at Golden Central Fire Station on 12th Street
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
Loveland Hose Company
Loveland Hose Company
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department

By 1918, Golden Fire Department’s equipment was entirely outdated, since they didn’t even have an automobile fire engine like neighboring big city Denver did. The Golden City Council approved funding for a new fire truck powerful enough to be capable of climbing the many hills in town. Alderman Nolin argued specifically against a small Ford truck that other towns of Golden’s size have because of the mountains nearby.

Instead, the Golden Fire Department bought a truck and 1,000 feet of new hose from the Denver-based Julius Pearse Fire Department Supply Company. The supply company was started by Julius Pearse, a German-born immigrant who moved to Central City, Colorado to work in the mines before settling with his new bride, Maggie Prosser, in Denver. He helped organize the first volunteer fire department in Denver, and became one of the city’s first fire chiefs. Pearse also went on to found the Colorado State Fire Association.

Pearse started the lucrative Julius Pearse Fire Department Supply Company in 1897 and was its president until he died in 1917 due to blood poisoning that was the result of a fire truck running over his foot some two years earlier. He left behind his wife and his 11 children, one of whom, Julius Pearse Jr., took over the company after his death.

Julius Pearse, owner of Julius Pearse Fire Department Supply Company

The brand new Golden Fire Department truck made its first run on May 28, 1919. It was a false alarm. Womp womp. It was not until 1930 that the Golden Fire Department added as second motorized unit.

One other fun fact concerns the fire bell at the Golden Central Fire Station. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the bell was rung for five hours straight in celebration of the end of the Great War. However, all this ringing cracked the bell, making it look like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Golden citizens renamed the bell the Golden Liberty Bell, which was located at City Hall until the building was demolished in 1961. It can now be found at the current location of Golden City Hall at 911 10th Street.

The bricks of Central Station were painted white and the building expanded to encompass all of City Hall. In the picture below from 1933, note the remaining stylized windows over the engine bay doors that are still the same as Central Station. Also note the Golden Liberty Bell between the fire engines.

1933 Central Station
Golden Fire Department in 1933
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
A weather-beaten look to the Golden Central Fire Station, circa 1950-1960
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
Golden Fire Department Engine 1
Golden Fire Department Engine No. 1, today
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
A fully restored 1921 American LaFrance Fire Truck on Jay Leno’s Garage

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