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February 22, 2014

WHAT'S OLD IS NEW: Vintage Fire Museum embracing new home in Jeffersonville

JEFFERSONVILLE — The plan was for the Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center to remain in New Albany, but it just didn’t work out.

Turning the page, museum officials are encouraged by the reception they’ve received from Jeffersonville, and ready to move forward with what they believe will be a regional attraction in the years to come.

The Vintage Fire Museum will have its official grand opening March 29, which will be highlighted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. It’s an event organizers of the museum — which features the historic Fred Conway fire equipment collection — never had the opportunity to hold in New Albany.

“We never were fully able to unpack and didn’t know that would be our permanent place,” said Curt Peters, president of the museum’s board of directors. “Now we have a home.”

The museum is located in the former Bales Auto building at 723 Spring St. in Jeffersonville. It opened in 2o11 in New Albany, but the board voted to move to Clark County in August.

A purchase agreement hadn’t been reached for the museum’s former property, the old Coyle Auto building, and the board was unable to reach a deal with New Albany officials to help with funding for a different location.

Peters said the move was a tough choice, but added Jeffersonville has been receptive to the museum. The city provided location for the museum for just a $500 annual lease.

The museum has been open for Friday and Saturday tours, and Peters said the plan is to add exhibits and attract more visitors.

“This museum needs to be a sustainable venture for the long-term,” Peters said Friday, shortly after explaining the history of some of the fire trucks to a few visitors in the museum.

While a permanent location for the museum has been in question almost since the start, the quality and legacy of the collection never has been an issue.

There’s a 1756 fire engine on display, and a late 19th century parade hose carriage with wheels that almost meet eye level.

The prize American LaFrance fire engine that was featured in a photograph published in newspapers around the world following the flood of 1937 is also on display at the museum.

There’s also a fire safety room with a sizable television screen for showing educational films, a kitchen area and a gift shop in the building.

Due to the size of the collection, different engines and exhibits will be rotated throughout the year. On Friday, there were 14 engines and 15 display cases for viewing, as Peters said the board has been impressed with the amount of items they are able to showcase at the new location.

Local graphic artist and designer Kris Razor is preparing images of vintage fire houses from around the area, including New Albany, Jeffersonville and Clarksville to be placed on the building’s window panels.

Aside from adding a door so that the fire engines could fit into the museum, Peters said all that was really needed was some electrical work and the expansion of the room that is being used for fire education.

The museum will add Sunday hours beginning May 11, but the facility is open for private tours throughout the week for tourist groups, field trips and families.

More members are always needed for the Friends of the Vintage Fire Museum. To book a tour, or for more information on the museum, call 812-948-8711.

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Fire Museum hours

• FRIDAY: Noon to 4

• SATURDAY: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• SUNDAY: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. [Beginning May 11]

On the web

• Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center — vintagefiremuseum.org

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