Photography by Jack Foley / Courtesy from Bare Cove Fire Museum
It all started with a 1922 Maxim ladder truck found in a junkyard in Bellingham. It wasn’t just a truck, it was the truck that Maxim had delivered to Hingham on June 17, 1922. The engine needed work, but luckily, there was plenty of help to be found.
Hingham is blessed with a long firefighting history, dating back to the early 1800s. The town is also blessed with plenty of retired firefighters, many of whom loved their work and adore its traditions. When word went out that an old warrior, the ladder truck, needed a full restoration, volunteers jumped at the chance to bring a bit of Hingham firefighting history back home. The team not only restored the old engine but went above and beyond to bring the truck back to factory specifications.
And so began the journey of the Bare Cove Fire Museum in 1974. At first, the museum housed its collection in the barn of the historic Hersey House, across the street from the North Fire Station on North Street, but the museum soon outgrew the space. “We got so many calls from people saying, ‘I’ve got grampa’s badge, do you want it?’ that we ran out of room,” says Geri Duff, a 30-year volunteer at the museum. The museum soon found a new home in Bare Cove Park, in a former U.S. Navy ammunition depot.
The property provided plenty of space for the museum to grow.
In 1978, the museum acquired a 1924 Maxim engine truck, originally delivered to the town in June 1924. It took the volunteers just three months to restore it. In 1980, the museum found the 1935 Ahrens-Fox, which last had been in town in October 1961. Five years of restoration later, it looked like it did the day it rolled into Hingham during the days of the Great Depression.
The apparatuses weren’t alone. Soon there came hydrants, hoses, ladders, speaking trumpets, badges, bells, signs, alarm boxes, hand tubs and more. Then came the requests: kids needed to write essays for history classes and families wanted information on ancestors. The information gathering grew alongside the artifact collecting to the point that now, Duff says, whenever someone asks us to tell them about their great-grandfather, we can say yes. However, on the off chance that Duff can’t, people are invited to stop by the museum on Wednesday nights when the firefighters get together to talk about the old days.
Bare Cove Fire Museum
45 Bare Cove Park Drive, Hingham