Port Townsend in Jefferson County, Washington — The American West (Northwest)
Fire Bell Tower
—Port Townsend —
This is the last remaining wooden fire bell tower in the United States.
Port Townsend’s Fire Bell Tower is a 75-foot wooden structure built in 1890 to hold a 1,500 pound brass bell and the city's new $900 fire engine.
The ringing bell rallied the community to fight fires, providing a coded signal as to the location and severity of the blaze.
In October of 1889, the American Telegraph Company began erecting poles and stringing wires—the poles to be equipped with boxes containing signaling devices for the transmission of fire alarms. Gamewell Company “Excelsior” model fire alarm boxes were installed at strategic locations throughout the city. By 1933 twenty-one were in service.
An “indicator unit” in the fire station at City Hall received the transmission and its 14-inch brass bell rang in a timed pattern. The device decoded the signal and displayed the specific alarm box number. Firefighters, arriving at the fire hall, checked the number on the indicator and rushed off to the location of the fire.
The bell ringer unit transmitted the coded location of the pull-box alarm to the Bell Tower. One of the fire¬fighters at the station would then select the number of times the bell ringer would cycle the coded signal for one, two or
Since 1890 the wooden tower has weathered countless storms. Every decade or so, the community comes together for yet another round of fundraising for its restoration. In March 2004, the Washington State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) named Port Townsend's Fire Bell Tower, restored by the Jefferson County Historical Society and the City of Port Townsend, as the recipient of the 2004 State. Historic Preservation Officer’s Award for Resource Stewardship.
Erected by Jefferson County Historical Society.
Location. 48° 6.915′ N, 122° 45.528′ W. Marker is in Port Townsend, Washington, in Jefferson County. Marker is at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Tyler Street, on the left on Jefferson Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Port Townsend WA 98368, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bell Tower (within shouting distance of this marker); The Haller Fountain (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Kuhn Building (about 600 feet away); Historical Marker (approx. 0.3 miles away); Guarding the Entrance to Puget Sound – Coast Artillery Corps The Crockett Blockhouse (approx. 5.7 miles away); Ebey Blockhouse (approx. 6.4 miles away); Sunnyside (approx. 6.6 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Port Townsend.
More about this marker. Six photographs are reproduced on the marker, described on four captions:
“A fire alarm box on the telephone pole (lower right) was located across the street from the Wanamaker & Mutty Grocery Store (later Aldrich's) at the corner of Lawrence and Tyler Streets.”
“Fire Alarm Key. Next to each alarm box was a small case with a glass front. Reporting a fire required breaking the glass, removing the key to open the box and pulling a small lever, sending a coded signal down the wire to the firehouse.”
“Early Fire Alarm System on display at the fire station.”
“The Fire Bell Tower, about to receive another battering from the elements.”
Categories. • Communications •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 200 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.