The Village of Empire was incorporated in 1895 and a short time later in February of 1898 Empire purchased 500 feet of hose and 2 nozzles to begin the "Empire Volunteer Fire Department." In April of that year they built a small building to house equipment on the east side of LaRue street just north of Front. That July, for $700, they purchased all the water pipe and fire equipment from Lake Ann after a fire destroyed much of that village. This included a hand pulled hose cart and other items.
Thus began the Empire Public Water system operated by the Empire Lumber Company. The village paid $500 annually for this service.
The village now had underground piping, fire hydrants and equipment to pull hoses around town to the nearest hydrant to fight fire!! What a leap forward. Again, in 1908, the village purchased an additional 500 feet of hose (at 40cents per foot) and an additional hose cart. In July of 1911 a new 20' X 40' hose house was built on lot 21 on the south side of Front street (where the library sits today.)
Empire remained fighting fires in this manner with the addition of a large fire bell purchased in 1918 for warning the volunteers of a fire. This bell was paraded about town and rang vigorously celebrating the end of WWI. In 1947 a fire siren replaced this bell. (The original bell is on display at our museum complex.)
In 1949 Empire took the huge step into the modern world by purchasing two 1917 Seagrave fire trucks. These were beautiful, gleaming, gas powered, chain drive, extremely noisy machines that were envied by everyone in town--except for those volunteers who drove them. They were very top heavy and had no protection what so ever--and yes, one was rolled over!
In 1950 the hose house was moved back (south) on the property to make room for a new fire house and later a newer fire truck followed, located on front street where the hose house once stood. The old hose house was now used as a village council chamber and other various uses. In 1976 the newly formed Empire Area Heritage Group was allowed to turn the south half of this building into our first museum. In 1982 a new fire station was opened on LaCore street allowing the museum group to take over the entire hose house. The Glen Lake Community Library took over the fire house on Front street and remodeled it into a beautiful community library.
Plans were under way to expand the library and the museum was offered to relocate the hose house to the museum grounds. This was accomplished in 1996 where it remains today. The south half of the building features many of the original hand pulled carts and other displays. The north half of the building houses our Diane E Fischer research center where most of our records are kept and stored in many fire proof file cabinets as well as a wonderful obituary and historical library section. Many oral interviews, both audio and video, are also stored here. Please come and enjoy this wonderful museum complex addition.
Check out the other exhibits we have in the EAM complex. These links will take you to pages that will give you a small taste of what we have--and we hope that you might want to come experience all we have in person!