Black and White 2016 — photo 61 of 129: ‘A’ is for Alder. A historic fire bell named “The Messenger” at the Firefighters’ Park Memorial, at the intersection of SW Alder Street, West Burnside Street, and 19th Avenue. As seen on my Portland NW 19th / 21st Avenues Alphabet District walking tour, June 2016. Check out the photo and text below for more details.



Her tongue is made of silver, and her voice was loud and clear: “Hurry Portland Firefighters! It is time to serve your City.” The tone from this alarm bell could be heard all the way to Oregon City. It was installed even before the age of horse-drawn steamers, when firefighters would literally run with their equipment to save a burning building.

This, the largest and finest alarm bell in Oregon, was purchased in response to the great fire of 1873, which nearly leveled the City’s West Side. The 4,200-pound bronze and silver bell was perched atop a 70-foot tower, behind the Vigilance Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 at Fourth and Yamhill, where it remained until 1913. The technology of the telegraph had rendered the bell obsolete. After enjoying celebrity status at special events for a few years, the bell was put into storage for more than half a century.

In the Spring of 2000, Portland firefighters honored the tradition of quick, coordinated emergency response by bringing the bell back into the spotlight. In these days, computers aid our dispatch, and the phrase “horse-power” describes diesel engines rather than horse-drawn steamers. But our commitment to serving the citizens of Portland rings as true as the day this bell first tolled.


Camera used: Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
For further details about the story behind this photo, see the related article A Pictorial ABC of Portland’s NW Alphabet District.
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