First Fire Engine in Des Moines

General Crocker Steamer

General Crocker Steamer

In the summer of 1869 the first fire engine arrived in Des Moines:  It was named the General Crocker Steamer in honor of General Marcellus Crocker, beloved Des Moines lawyer who died at the end of the Civil War.  The steamer was financed by the Hawkeye Insurance Company, which only fought fires carrying the insurance company plaque on the building.  The organization of a paid city fire department didn’t occur until March of 1882.


Brigham, Johnson. Des Moines: The Pioneer of Municipal Progress and Reform of the Middle West Together with the History of Polk County, Iowa. . . vol. 1.  Chicago:  S.J. Clarke, 1911.

Content also from the Des Moines Architectural and Historical Tour.

Hot times at Beaver Tap

The next time you visit Beaver Tap, at the corner of Beaver and Urbandale, look at the outside north wall and you’ll see the outlines of doors and windows that have since been bricked over. As you’re standing there, imagine a fire truck roaring from that vestigial garage doorway, rushing to extinguish a fire somewhere in the Beaverdale neighborhood.  Due in part to the demands of PTA mothers from Riley and Rice elementary schools concerned for their families’ safety, Station No. 17 was added to the Des Moines Fire Department at that location in the fall of 1928. A 1919 350-gallon pumper truck was the largest vehicle that would fit through the door. In 1952, a new and larger Station No.17 was built at the southeast corner of Beaver and Hickman (now a State Farm Insurance agency) which was in service for around 25 years.  After short stints as an auto repair business and a wholesale bakery, the building at 4050 Urbandale was home for almost 30 years to the Bon Ton Tavern. A K O’Connors took over in 1985, and earlier this year the Beaver Tap opened its doors.

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