Madison’s riverfront today.
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Madison, Indiana

Fair Play Fire Company No. 1 Firehouse

Current view of Fair Play Fire Company No. 1.

Current view of Fair Play
Fire Company No. 1 Firehouse.
Courtesy of Bradley Miller

The Union Volunteer Fire Company organized in 1830 to help protect Madison’s citizens from fire, a very serious threat to 19th century communities. Several years later, the City of Madison voted to fund a paid municipal fire department, but within ten months the service was cancelled and the responsibility again rested on volunteer forces. In 1841, about 100 men, who originally were members of the Union Volunteer Fire Company, organized the Fair Play Fire Company No. 1, which is now the oldest volunteer company in Indiana.

The original “Little Jimmy.”

The original “Little Jimmy.”
Courtesy of Bradley Miller

Built c.1875 as a horse-drawn streetcar barn for the Madison Street Railways Company, the Fair Play Fire Company No. 1 Firehouse building’s wide entrance and open floor plan made it ideal for use as a firehouse. In 1888, the Fair Play Company purchased the streetcar barn and moved its operations to its current location on the northeast corner of Main and Walnut Streets. During a renovation that began shortly after the purchase of the building, the company added the firehouse’s impressive three and one-half story brick tower that still stands over downtown Madison. The tower’s wood supports, used to hang fire hoses to dry, are still visible, and decorative brick detailing surrounds its inset windows.

Perched atop the tower is the Fair Play Fire Company’s mascot, “Little Jimmy.” Fair Play Company member Peter Hoffman created the tin figure of a boy blowing a bugle during the 1880s. The weathervane immediately became a symbol of the Fair Play Company and a notable Madison landmark. After years of service, the original Little Jimmy was retired in 1997, and is now displayed inside the firehouse. He was replaced with an identical copper version crafted by New Hampshire artist Don Felix.

The Fair Play Fire Company No. 1 Firehouse contributes to the historic significance of the Madison Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Plan your visit

The Fair Play Fire Company No. 1 Firehouse is located at 403-405 E. Main St. and is an active firehouse. While the Firehouse is not open to the public it is easily viewed from the street. Click here for the Madison Historic District National Historic Landmark file: text.

The Fair Play Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1 has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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