The Friendship Fire Company was established in 1774, as the first volunteer fire company in Alexandria. The current firehouse was built in 1855, was substantially remodeled in 1871, and was restored by the City of Alexandria in 1992. In a town of mostly wooden buildings, where open flames provided heat, light and cooking on a daily basis, fire was a constant danger. The Friendship, Sun, Relief, Hydraulion and other local volunteer fire companies served the community faithfully, particularly during enormous blazes in 1827, 1855, 1871, and 1922. Some of their stories and equipment are preserved today in the Friendship Firehouse Museum.
After the Civil War, the five Fire Companies of Alexandria struggled with returning to normal operation. Numbers were down and equipment needed repairing. With the inception of the City Department in 1866, some struggled more than others. Friendship chose not to join when the City wanted Companies to combine into one Corporation. By doing so, Friendship lost out on a free Steam Engine and tried to purchase one in 1871. It had to be returned within the year as they could not come up with the rest of the payment. In the late 1870s, City Council told Friendship they could no longer be a backup Company, as their equipment was not up to standard. After almost 100 years, Friendship lost out on being Company 1. That honor went to Relief, who still holds this title today.
Beginning in the late 1870s and continuing into the 20th Century, Friendship began a period of parading. It was during this time the Suction Pump became the official parade piece and was painted several times over. Uniforms were the main concern of the Company, as well as gaining members. In the late 1890s, the Gazette still referred to them as the Friendship Fire Company. In an article, dating July 5th, 1895, it stated “The meeting of the Friendship Fire Company on Wednesday night was but slimly attended, and no business of general interest was transacted.”
However, by the early 1900s, the Company was looking to change its scope. In an Alexandria Gazette, dated April 16th, 1903, it mentioned, “A well-attended meeting of the Friendship Fire Company was held last night for the purpose of effecting an organization of the old members of the company, the object of which will be the preservation of the archives and memories of this time-honored Alexandria institution.” On May 7th, the paper reported, “The veteran Friendship Fire Company held last night the largest meeting which the organization has had for many months….The Company is experiencing a revival of interest, and many old fireman from all companies are joining in its ranks.” By November of that year, “It was determined to repair and improve the company’s house, and other measures were taken looking toward the perpetuation of the organization.”
In the following year we see the change in the name of Friendship Fire Company. In a Gazette article dated December 29th, 1904, it read, “A well-attended meeting of the Friendship Veterans’ Fire Association was held Tuesday evening in the old engine house on Alfred street, when a new constitution and by-laws were adopted[.]” In the Company’s Minute Book, a meeting on December 27, 1904, noted that there was the Reading of the new Constitution and By-laws. In 1924, there is a motion to hereafter be known as the Friendship Veterans Fire Association, but it was never voted on. Clearly at some point, the name was changed again, but not certain what year and what prompted the change. However the object has stayed the same in that the Company is preserving the memories of the time-honored Alexandria institution.
Friendship Firehouse was built in 1855, was substantially remodeled in 1871, and was then restored by the City of Alexandria in 1992, following its gift to the City by the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association along with the historic collection of historic artifacts. Since that time, City staff have examined, documented, and interpreted Friendship’s artifact collection, providing professional care for the building, vehicles, and dozens of other items. In 2009, the cupola and roof of the firehouse received a thorough restoration, complete with historic paint analysis to determine its original appearance.
Friendship Firehouse Museum is located at 107 South Alfred Street in Alexandria. The site is open to the public from 1–4PM on Saturdays and Sundays; closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. The museum is owned and operated by the City of Alexandria, and managed by the City's Office of Historic Alexandria.
The Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association assists in the preservation of the historic fire engine house on Alfred Street in Alexandria, Virginia; supports the Alexandria Fire Department; and provides scholarships, and other benevolent and philanthropic services to the Alexandria Community. The Association promotes civic involvement, honors the legacy of its 18th-century founders—dedicated citizen firefighters—and values the contributions of our present-day first responders.
We may be reached via e-mail, phone or mail please contact us at:
Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association
P. O. Box 22505
Alexandria, VA 22304
Joe Shumard, President: 703.408.4483
Bill Kehoe, Secretary/Treasurer: 703.751.6416