Fire Museum

It's not so unusual for Central to have an interest in firefighting equipment. Central was first founded as a fire insurance company. In rural midwestern towns similar to Van Wert, buying fire insurance was a difficult and costly proposition. Construction materials were primarily wood and there was little, if any, organized protection against fire. The large, established eastern insurance companies were hesitant to provide insurance protection. The Van Wert County Mutual Fire Insurance Company was formed on April 5, 1876 to fill that need and was the start of what was to become today's Central Insurance.

Click to watch the January 15, 2015 episode of WBGU-TV's Scenic Stops which highlights Central's Fire Museum.

The threat of a disastrous fire was always very real and the equipment used to fight fires was primitive. F. W. "Bill" Purmort, Jr., President of Central from 1964 to 1994, first took an interest in collecting fire equipment in 1969. Bill was particularly proud of Central's heritage with a deep respect for the past. He gradually built Central's museum in to one of the finest privately owned collections in the U.S. The museum is a fitting tribute to former President Bill. Our museum includes:

  • A collection of leather fire buckets dating back to the 1700's.
  • A collection of over 600 antique fire toys consisting of cast iron, rubber, glass, tin and wood construction.
  • A large display of fire extinguishers and glass fire "grenades" dating from the 1850's.
  • A rare and valuable collection of "fire marks" dating back to 1720.
  • A variety of antique fireman helmets.
  • A hand-drawn pumper, Van Wert's first used in 1871.
  • An Ahrens horse drawn steam pumper which was purchased new in 1907 by the City of Van Wert and restored by Central.
  • A 1926 Ahrens-Fox pumper, the Rolls Royce of firetrucks.

These are just some of the fascinating and historic items housed in Central's Fire Museum. The museum is dedicated to the ingenuity and pioneer spirit of those who came before us. Much of the equipment on display is part of our local history and was actually used in Van Wert. We're proud of our heritage and pleased that we can offer a look into the past.

Tours available by appointment only.
Please email or call 800.736.7000 ext. 2043 to schedule an appointment.