In the northeastern part of the city of Lansing is an interesting juxtaposition of the old and new symbolizing the links between past and present. A well known local insurance company has, in its front yard, a vintage fire engine contained in a life-sized glass case. The modern headquarters of the insurance company serves as a fitting backdrop for this antique piece of firefighting equipment, for it represents the strength and durability of the company to stand behind commitment to customers and their needs, as well as making a contribution to local historic preservation efforts.
The company was founded in the late 1800's to provide insurance to area flour millers. It was organized as a mutual rather than as a stock company for this purpose. It grew with time and even opened a western department in California in 1933. At first quartered downtown at 208 North Capitol Avenue (now the Christman Building), it relocated to this part of town in a new building in 1956-57. The present very modern looking structure frames its much older vehicle out in front.
The displayed engine is a masterpiece of Victorian functionality. Originally drawn by horses, it is decked out in a red and silver paint scheme. It features a bell, a gauge and a detachable lantern used in the era before searchlights. Dubbed the "Queen City" in honor of its first home in Traverse City, it must have been a reassuring sight careening around the corner to extinguish many a blaze. Indeed, it was called out approximately 4000 times in its several decades of service! It continued in this capacity until it was finally replaced by a gasoline powered truck in 1917. It now rests in honored retirement in front of the building. The site is easily accessible to pedestrians and motorists alike exiting off westbound only Grand River Avenue. A visit here is most similar to the Lansing Civic Players firehouse previously examined in these pages. (See the author's article at www.examiner.com). Information was obtained from the state historic marker and the display case.