Detroit Firemen’s Hall Flag Raising Ceremony

Today in Detroit Fire History April 23, 1861

On April 23, 1861 during the early days of the civil war, Firemen’s Hall hosted an elaborate flag raising ceremony.  The event even included a live eagle. 

Patriotic symbols and small flags festooned Firemen’s Hall in honor of the event. The city’s fire companies gathered around a speaking platform. Volunteer company Engine 9 had a live eagle at the head of their ranks. (This was less than a year after the city initiated paid fire companies, and most of the volunteer fire companies were still in active service.) 

A large crowd of citizens surrounded the firemen filling up the avenue for a considerable distance. Ladies crowded onto balconies to watch the proceedings.  

During it’s time Firemen’s Hall was a premier Detroit location, hosting cultural events and entertainment of all kinds. It was located on the corner of Jefferson and Randolph. Mariners’ Church now occupies this site.  


Raising The Flag

Benjamin Vernor (brother to James Vernor, who would soon become famous for his ginger ale) gave a brief address.  Then a large American flag was hoisted above the high roof of of the Hall. Three cheers and a tiger rang out. “Hip, Hip, Hooray! – Hip, Hip, Hooray! – Hip, Hip, Hooray!” followed by a loud the shrieking roar and clapping of the crowd.  

Benjamin Vernor, firefighter during Detroit’s volunteer era, Detroit Fire Commissioner for the early paid department.

The Star-Spangled Banner was performed by the Zouave Band while a firemen’s “glee club”, specifically organized for the occasion, sang along. When they reached the chorus the entire fire department joined in the singing. 

More speeches were given. Firemen who had served their country in previous wars were honored. And the large number of firemen who had volunteered to serve in the current war were given special mention. 

Parading Through The Streets

When the speeches were done, the department formed up. The band lead the procession and citizens following behind the firemen. As they paraded through the streets, the group temporarily halted at several locations, giving three rousing cheers at each stop. An employee had just hoisted a flag above Mayor Buhl’s place of business when the procession passed. A spontaneous raucous cheer was raised among the firemen’s ranks.   

The event was characterized as showing the “spirit, enthusiasm, and heartiness which distinguishes our firemen in all their undertakings” and “one of the most spirited demonstrations that have taken place since the inauguration of the war times.” 

Firemen’s Hall was owned and operated by an organization composed of the membership of the Detroit’s various volunteer fire companies. The first floor of the building contained storefronts that were rented to provide income for the organization.


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