In 1873 — not long after Fort Worth was incorporated by the Texas Legislature — Capt. Buckley C. Paddock organized the city’s first fire company, a 60-person volunteer brigade known as Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.
Now, nearly 150 years later, the Fort Worth Fire Department (FWFD) consists of 900+ members who respond to 80,000+ calls per year across 345 square miles.
But if you hear sirens, don’t look for the big red trucks — there are none. The FWFD has been cruising around town in white fire engines since the early 1900s.
According to retired Battalion Chief Jim Noah, the FWFD was headed to the State Fair of Texas to compete in the “Pumper Races,” but was embarrassed by the sorry state of the reserve wagon.
The department requested $45 from the city council to repaint the wagon but they were denied, so they took up a collection. E.E. Lennox Reliable Carriage Works was commissioned to repaint the truck to be “the prettiest wagon at the fair.”
When the firefighters received their wagon a few days later, Mr. Lennox had painted it white with gold lettering and trim. They nicknamed it the Circus Wagon and went on to win first prize and $250.
As one of the first cities in the US to have white fire engines, Fort Worthians loved the Circus Wagon so much that Fire Chief Maddox instituted the color scheme from then on. The blue stripe was added in the early 1980s.
Castle, garage, house?
The white engines aren’t the only unusual aesthetic the FWFD has sported. Throughout its history, the organization has had some pretty interesting buildings — that may or may not be full of firefighters anymore. Check out these five funky fire stations in Fort Worth.
Central Fire Station
Constructed in 1899 at Throckmorton Street + 8th Avenue, the Central Fire Station had a 40-ft lookout tower with a one-ton bronze bell. It was demolished in 1938 when a new location was built on Texas Street. The bell — which sounded the alarm for fires and commemorated significant events like the assassination of President McKinley in 1901 and the end of WWI in 1918 — was retired in 1939.
Fire Stations No. 5, No. 10 + No. 12
In 1910 + 1911, the city built three triplet stations designed by Sanguinet & Staats to accommodate horse-drawn fire equipment with two large street-facing doors. No. 5 (503 Bryan St.) was turned into a distillery for BLK EYE Vodka. No. 10 (2804 Lipscomb St.) is now the location of the Fire Station Community Center. No. 12 (2410 Prospect Ave.) is no longer in use but is being considered for a firefighter’s museum.
Fire Station No. 16
This 1933 bungalow at 1616 Park Pl. was formerly the home of Fire Station No. 16. Designed by Charles F. Allen, it was one of 10 stations created during the “City Beautiful” project to blend into neighborhoods. Known as Art Station, the building is now an art therapy community center. Some of the bungalow stations — like No. 18 on Camp Bowie Blvd. — are still active.