Dallas, TX—For over 100 years Fire Station No. 5 has stood on Parry Avenue across from Fair Park in Dallas. The station now houses the Dallas Firefighters Museum, and plans are in the works to restore and modernize the venerable building.
The museum is seeking to raise $5.6 million in order to restore the building’s façade and update the interior with modern technology and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The money will also include adding an educational component with interactives on safety and fire prevention.
“You ask all the firemen, and they want to preserve our history,” said Rett Blankenship, a captain with Dallas Fire-Rescue Station No. 11 and president of the museum’s board of directors. “This way we’re going to preserve our history as well as devote basically the entire half of the museum, if not more, [to] kids and education.”
When the Dallas Fire Council met in 1968 to discuss creating a museum, it was given permission to use Fire Station No. 5. Jerry “Zip” Crawford, a retired firefighter who serves as one of the museum’s curators, said starting in 1972, the Dallas firefighters began to build their own museum.
“Firemen would just meet over here [after shifts] and work,” said Crawford, who was a charter member of the museum. “There’s a lot of history in this old station.”
Blankenship said it’s men like Crawford who are the reason the museum exists today — because they saved the department’s history and because they built the museum as it stands now.
For the first few years of its existence, the station was part museum, part active station. The museum fully took over the space in 1975. And for its entire existence, it’s been funded largely by donations from active and retired firefighters, Crawford said.
“The firefighters, since its inception, have donated well over a million dollars to keep this thing open,” Blankenship said. “That’s kind of the way we’ve been, is kind of a small museum in Dallas, but one that’s been around longer than some of them. The entire time we’ve been open we’ve operated in the black … from the beginning it’s almost exclusively been kept open by the firefighters themselves, which is also unique.”