Located on Pine Street in Mt Holly.
During my adventure at times, I stumble upon some sites that I didn’t plan to encounter. I found this pretty building while touring Mt. Holly one day and of course had to look into it further.
This is the oldest firehouse in the USA built-in 1752. The Mt. Holly fire department is also the oldest continuously operating volunteer fire department in the USA. Which makes this even sweeter.
According to a 1991 Philly.com article, both fire companies of Haddonfield and Medford once attempted to challenge Mt. Holly’s Fire Department’s claim of being the oldest in existence. However, brief court proceedings ruled that the Mt. Holly Relief Department is indeed the oldest.
Over two centuries ago, the Britannia Fire Company was organized to offer an efficient and disciplined method of protecting then Bridgetown (now Mt. Holly) from the destruction of fire. The name Britannia was to show loyalty to the British monarchy (remember… This is pre-Revolutionary era when founded.)
There were no firetrucks or even any large apparatuses to hold water at this time. Their way of fighting fire was for the volunteers to fill leather buckets with water and were required to hang the buckets outside of their homes. Which became known as the “bucket brigade.” As the main method of fighting fire was to use the leather buckets to apply water by hand.
“We whose names are hereunto subscribed, reposing special confidence in each other’s friendships, and for the better preserving of our own and fellow townsmen’s houses, goods, and effects from fire; having each of us at our proper cost of provided a quantity of leather buckets, according to the numbers thereof, with each of our names respectively subscribed, each bucket being marked with our names respectively.”
-Charter of the Britannia Fire Company, July 1752.
We’ve come a looong way since then!
In 1765, the fire company purchased its first fire fighting apparatus in nearby Philadelphia.
The Britannia Fire Company was changed to the Mount Holly Fire Company in 1787. Mount Holly received its name because after the American Revolution the volunteer members decided the name Britannia was unpatriotic.
The Mount Holly name derived by the company’s Pine Street place between the “mount” to the north (which British occupied during the Battle of Ironworks Hill on Dec. 24, 1776) and the grassy knoll to the south near the Rancocas Creek with its abundance of native holly where the patriots fought the battle. A few years later, the town of Bridgetown eventually followed suit by changing to what we know today as the quaint town of Mt. Holly.
The Fire Department has continued to serve its citizens today. Their original firehouse, built-in 1752, sits next to the current firehouse built-in 1895.
Today, old artifacts are preserved and even some old-fashioned leather buckets are on display at this site.
Another great South Jersey history lesson. Who knew, eh? Go check it out!
Until our next adventure, my friends!