Eastpointe’s historic  Model T fire engine  purchased in 1921 will be put on display at the Ford Piquette Avenue Museum in Detroit thanks to a new agreement between the city and the museum. The city may have the vehicle back whenever it wishes for events such as parades.

Eastpointe’s historic Model T fire engine purchased in 1921 will be put on display at the Ford Piquette Avenue Museum in Detroit thanks to a new agreement between the city and the museum. The city may have the vehicle back whenever it wishes for events such as parades.

Photo provided by Nick Sage


Historic Eastpointe fire engine to be preserved by Ford Piquette Museum

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 30, 2019

 This Model T fire engine has been a staple of Eastpointe since it entered service in 1921. It will live on thanks to a new agreement with the Ford Piquette Avenue Museum in Detroit.

This Model T fire engine has been a staple of Eastpointe since it entered service in 1921. It will live on thanks to a new agreement with the Ford Piquette Avenue Museum in Detroit.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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EASTPOINTE — One of the city of Eastpointe’s most beloved historical treasures will be preserved for future generations thanks to a new deal with the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum.

The treasure is the city’s original Model T fire engine purchased in 1921. The Piquette Museum, also known as the Model T Heritage Complex and located at 461 Piquette Avenue in Detroit, was the original factory in which Model Ts were produced by Ford. It will keep the vehicle on display for the majority of the year while the city can have it back for special occasions, such as parades.

“I think this arrangement is very good. It stays in good condition, but we always can bring it back when we want it,” said Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley. “For instance, pretty soon the Fire Department will be 100 years old, and I’m sure we will want it to highlight the department for that occasion.”

The firetruck even predates the municipality it served by three years. It was part of Erin Township until 1924, when the area became the village of Halfway, and then it became the city of East Detroit in 1929. It would be renamed to Eastpointe in 1992.

“It was the first firetruck in the city of Eastpointe, back when it was called Erin Township,” said Pixley. “It was purchased by business owners back in the 1920s, and they did it because at the fire station they had to drag a wagon off to fires. Many businesses were worried about fires in the town as it began to grow, and they wanted a truck to carry more water and allow for the pumping of the water. … It even predates our Police Department, which wasn’t formed until the village of Halfway was established.”

Given it is nearly 100 years old, the fire engine naturally has a long history in the city.

“It saw service here until 1942,” Eastpointe Deputy Fire Chief Nick Sage explained in an email. “This truck was most certainly the first motorized fire truck in southern Macomb County. In its early days it was taken to fires in St. Clair Shores, Roseville, Warren (Township) and Center Line. It sat, tarp-covered, in our city Parks and Recreation garage until it was taken up as a restoration project by the Eastpointe Historical Society. It was completely taken apart, sandblasted, repainted and outfitted with all-new wood (from a forest in the Upper Peninsula) and returned to parade duty in 2008.”

The city has loaned the vehicle to the Piquette Museum in the past on a temporary basis, but this more permanent deal will ensure the fire engine continues to survive in good condition.

“The vehicle was previously at that location, and the city had worked out a verbal arrangement to give them custody of the vehicle, and we are working out a more formal agreement,” said City Attorney Richard Albright. “This way the vehicle is kept indoors, away from the elements, because the city doesn’t have a place to store the vehicle in any municipal buildings.”

Sage believes the city gets the best of both worlds, both finding a safe location to store the truck without expense and getting to show it off instead of keeping it penned up in a garage somewhere.

“Since its restoration in 2018, it has spent time at the Ford Piquette Avenue Museum and we’re thrilled to be able to return it on a loan as an exhibit,” wrote Sage. “The Ford Piquette Avenue Museum hosts a wealth of volunteers that know as much about Model T’s as anyone could. They do a fantastic job showcasing century-old Ford vehicles like our antique fire truck. It was an objective this year to return the truck to a place in which it could be properly showcased and preserved for years to come.”

Eastpointe is proud to have such an artifact to show off part of the Detroit area’s proud automotive history.

“It was made at the Highland Park Ford plant, not the Piquette plant, but it is still a great example of the vehicles made at the time,” said Pixley. “It has a unique system for getting the water out of the tank. It used a chemical reaction like baking soda to force the water out of the tank.”

Albright said the city was excited for the deal, as it means people will be able to enjoy the fire engine for generations to come.

“There’s no cost to the city to store the vehicle at this location. It will be on display there with a write-up on its history as well,” he said. “It preserves the vehicle so it is not outside in the rain or the winter months. This way it is in a temperature-controlled environment, safe from the elements, and on display so everyone can enjoy it that way.”

A beloved icon for many in Eastpointe, Pixley said that ensuring the well-being of the fire engine while still giving residents access to it was an important opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

“It’s kind of been a symbol of the city over the years,” she remarked. “It’s needed repairs and refurbishments over the years, such as new paint or some engine work, but people and businesses from around Eastpointe have always stepped up to keep it in good condition. It really belongs to the community, and it shows.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.

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