Tom Doyle shows a section of 19th century leather fire hose.

Tom Doyle shows a section of 19th century leather fire hose.

Tom Doyle is in his element this Saturday afternoon.  People keep drifting into his private fire museum, Little Wiz,  singly and and in groups, eager to see his amazing display of antique fire fighting equipment — an organized chaos of antique fire wagons and chemical tanks, of 19th century smoke helmets and early 20th century fire alarms.  They are eager to take his tour and hear his stories.  And he is just as eager to oblige.

During the week, Doyle runs FBN Systems, a security installation business, but it is on weekends that he really has fun. He has assembled his impressive collection within a relatively short time — he opened the museum in 2008. His interest in fire fighting equipment began when he found several fire grenades in a building where he was doing an installation. (Fire grenades are chemical-filled balls that were lobbed at fires before sprinklers came into use.) Suddenly he was hooked.

“I bought a lot of things on E-Bay,” Doyle explains.  “And people started bringing things to me.”

1859 hand drawn fire cart with hose reel

1859 hand drawn fire cart with hose reel

His most spectacular acquisition is an 1859 hand-drawn fire cart with a hose reel from New York City. It is in excellent shape and much of the decorative paint remains.

“This one would have used a leather hose — which is what they were originally made of, before canvas or rubber,” he explains.  “And it would have been in use  before cities operated fire departments. Firefighters were originally hired by insurance companies, and it was not unusual for fist fights to break out if two competing companies arrived at the same fire.”

Hallock chemical fire truck

Hallock chemical fire truck

Doyle’s other major acquisition has a local connection.  He owns a chemical fire truck manufactured by Hallock Engineering of Medina. Of the 22 fire trucks built by the company between 1913-1918, only four remain.  Medina once owned one,  but it had been sold long ago and subsequently, disappeared.  Doyle’s truck came from Sanford, a town outside of Orlando, Florida.

The Little Wiz is located somewhat off the beaten path in a former store on 326 East Smith Road, in the middle of a neighborhood of old Victorian mansions, offices and businesses.  But fire fighting enthusiasts always seem find him.

Tom Doyle gets a donation from a fan

Tom Doyle gets a donation from a fan

One repeat visitor today is Gene Seckler, a fire inspector for an insurance company.  I’ve been to a lot of these kind of museums all over the country,” he says.  “And this is one of the best.” Today he is donating a box of fire grenades to the Little Wiz.

And where does the unusual name, Little Wiz, come from?

“In the 1920’s this building was a deli and sandwich shop,” Doyle explains. (His other enthusiasm is Medina history.) The workers from Bennett Lumber (now closed) used to come here for lunch.  It was called the Little Whiz Grocery.  I dropped the ‘h’ “.

The Little Wiz Fire and Historic Medina Museum is free and is open on Saturdays from 9-4, and by appointment other times.  Groups are welcome.  This summer Doyle will host an Open House for owners of antique firetrucks.

His telephone # is 330-419-0200.

To see more antique equipment from The Little Wiz, click here.

2 Responses to “The Little Wiz Fire and Historic Medina Museum”

  1. Rachel Murdock Says:

    Hi,
    I am trying date a piece of fire fighting equipment from the 1800’s I think, any idea?? I don’t know how to attach a photo to this.
    Sincerely,
    Rachel Murdock
    Shawnee, Oklahoma

  2. jim decker LFD Says:

    Hi Tom you old cayoose, how are thingsat the littlewiz. We have had the wettest spring in a long time. I hhavent even started the T this year yet and we have 2 parades coming up at the end of may. Gotta get with it. How come you don’t up date your little wiz facebook occasionly? it looks the same every time I look at it. talk to u again later, jim. ps say hello to the hallock family for me. see ya.

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