The History of the Firehouse Pole

During the 19th century, firefighters in the United States had two ways to make their way from their beds to their horse and buggy: “spiral staircase—installed to keep wayward horses from wandering upstairs—or through a tube chute.” That was until the ingenious David Kenyon installed a pole at Chicago’s all-Black firefighter Company 21 firehouse. Kenyon had seen a colleague use a “wooden pole normally used to bale hay for horses” to descend to the ground floor, and realized that it was not only fast but a space-saver. This clever thought changed firehouses all over the world, and while many have now removed their poles for various safety reasons, countless firefighters value the pole’s historical significance. As Sean Colby (of Engine 10 in Boston) says, “It’s a major part of firefighting. I enjoy using it and believe it’s an iconic tradition we shouldn’t let go.” Read more at Smithsonian Magazine.