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Colonial Firefighting & the American Revolution

Colonial Firefighting & The American Revolution 
(1620 – 1785)

On Display Permanently 

Celebrate the untold story of a group of volunteers, the colonial-era firefighters, that stood between New York and disaster during years of rampant arson, wars for North America, and the American Revolution. Multimedia, video animations, and 3D models illustrate the major events of the colonial era, including a breathtaking video-animation of the devastating fire in 1776 that destroyed 500 buildings – homes, churches, schools, stores, and factories. Original artworks depict the Wall of Wall Street, the first fire engines, and 1770 New York neighborhoods. A free exhibition booklet available at the door.


This exhibition was made possible through a partnership with Bruce Twickler of Docema, LLC, Devan Calabrez, and their talented team.  

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Engaging Multimedia Narratives 
Left wall of exhibit (1640 – 1770)

Uses an animated time-line and video projections to track the origins of the colonial firefighting in the 17th century, the development of the colonial FDNY through the rampant arson and world wars of the mid-18th century.

Back wall of exhibit (1770 – 1776)

Projects sensational video animations to show the Great New York Fire of 1776, the most destructive fire in the history of colonial North America.

Right wall of exhibit (1776 – 1783)

Shows how the colonial FDNY rebounded to save New York from the hazards of war after the 1776 Fire. It also presents the compelling testimony of the Carleton Commission during the British evacuation at the end of the war.

Informative Illustrations 
Projections from original 3D computer models vividly display the construction of a typical Dutch colonial house in the 1650s, the inner workings of a Newsham fire engine, and neighborhoods in New York before and just after the 1776 fire.
Maps of Manhattan provide the backdrop for each stage of colonial development in New York. Several original maps, such as the Map of New York City Wards circa 1700, Map of Fires of the "Revolt" of 1741, and Map of the 1778 Fire are seen here for the first time.

Several graphs accent the illustrations to emphasize the recent research enabled by the digitization revolution of the last two decades. For example, Fires in New York 1777 – 1783 shows the number and severity of every fire of that period, information formerly buried in newspapers for the last two centuries and now linked directly at

One-of-a-kind Artifacts and Reconstructions 
On loan from Colonial Williamsburg is their reconstruction of the exact model of the first fire engine brought into New York from London in 1731. In fact, the machine is a working model that can pump water just as it did 300 years ago. Also on display are alarm rattles, command trumpets, and other artifacts, some of which could have been used at the Great Fire of 1776.

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