Alexandria fire carriage wins statewide artifact contest

The Prettyman hose carriage was made in 1858 by a Friendship Fire Company volunteer and is an example of Alexandria’s history with firefighting, technological evolution and civic engagement. (Photo/Office of Historic Alexandria)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

The Virginia Association of Museums stoked the flames of Alexandria’s history today when it awarded the Friendship Fire Company’s 19th-century fire carriage first place in its top 10 endangered artifacts competition.

The win comes after nine days of voting by residents and history buffs and brings with it $4,000 in conservation funds. The Alexandria artifact earned 2,680 votes. It eked out a narrow victory over the Virginia Living Museum’s mastodon fossil collection, which was only 124 votes behind.

Alexandria carriagemaker and volunteer firefighter Robert F. Prettyman made the Prettyman hose carriage, which is currently housed at the Friendship Firehouse Museum, in 1858. The carriage was a revolutionary step forward in firefighting technology, as it allowed the city’s volunteer firefighters to ditch buckets of water for a hose and hand-pumped suction engine.

The award money will go towards the Office of Historic Alexandria’s continued fundraising efforts for the artifact’s conservation costs, which City Historian Daniel Lee estimated will hit $150,000. The office’s final goal is to perform paint analysis on the carriage in order to restore it to its original blue.

For more on the carriage’s important place in Alexandria’s history, read the Times’ Jan. 24 article, “Alexandria artifact in running for funding.”