West Austin #7
Year Organized: 1868
Year Disbanded: 1916
Washington Fire Company No. 1 Photos
In October 1868, ten years after the organization of Hook and Ladder Number 1, Washington Fire Engine Company Number 1, Austin´s second fire company, was established.
Several men, led by John Bremond, Jr., organized Washington Number 1, and was nicknamed the “Kid Glove” company because a number of wealthy men and leading citizens were included in its membership. Back in those days, being a member of an Austin fire company was not just to protect the city, it was a group for socialites. The ranks of Washington Number 1 were filled with many of Austin´s prominent citizens, including George W. Littlefield. Washington Number 1 was briefly housed in several locations around the city´s center until 1885, when they built their permanent fire hall and engine house 605 Brazos Street across from the world famous Driskill Hotel. This firehouse has been remodeled into an office building, but it still stands today as the oldest remaining Austin fire station still standing, and is named the Washington Building.
Washington Number 1´s first fire engine was a hand drawn machine, which was later replaced by a horse drawn steam engine. In the early 1880s, the old Water Works Company of Austin installed the Holly system of water distribution, which consisted of a sophisticated water grid with mains, pumps, and hydrants. Therefore, they abandoned the steam engine, reorganized as a hose company, and coupled their hoses directly to the fire hydrants in order to fight fire.
Washington Number 1 is credited with getting first water at the 1881 Burning of the Old Capitol Building. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Texas Legislatures did not appropriate enough money to supply the capitol building and grounds with hydrants and water, therefore Washington Number 1 had to catch a hydrant 700 feet away from Congress Avenue. If it wasn´t for their “penny-wise and pound foolish policy”, the Capitol could have been saved along with priceless artifacts lost, such as portraits of George Washington, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and Tom Green.
In June of 1916, when the Austin Fire Department converted to an all paid department, Washington Fire Engine Company Number 1 disbanded forever. It served as the longest running volunteer fire company that did not transition into the new era of firefighting with professional firefighters and automotive fire trucks. If you walk up Brazos Street, in downtown Austin, and listen very carefully, you might even hear the clicking of hooves, the snorting of horses, and the boys of Washington No. 1 dragging hose and shouting orders making one last run.