Zadock Pratt Museum - "History Feature" 

Throughout the year 2000, we highlighted interesting items from Prattsville history.  
In 2001, we continue.  This is Number 12 in our feature series.   


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The Prattsville Fire Rim, now on Museum Grounds 
Charles Layman stands ready to strike

February 2001 Feature
The Prattsville Fire Rim on Museum Grounds

Outside the big east doorway of the Carriage House behind the Pratt Museum hangs the Prattsville Fire Rim. 

Chained on three sides to a wooden frame, it no longer can reverberate with ear-splitting tones to announce danger or celebration.  In the old days pranksters could not resist scaring people out of their wits just for fun.  All you needed was something to use as a mallet to bang on the gong.  You could blow out people's eardrums with the noise.

Today the wail of the Prattsville Hose Company's modern siren has long since silenced the simple Fire Rim.  Now it sits mute and secluded. 

In its useful days, as the photo above shows, the Fire Rim stood in the middle of the village, at the southwest corner of Main Street and Creamery Lane, ready for any event at any moment.

Poised with a sledgehammer from his nearby blacksmith shop, Charles Layman of Prattsville, stands ready to strike.  

The penetrating boom of this especially cast gong could be heard a mile away.  Church bells often joined in.

Frank Layman, one of Charles Layman's eight children, subsequently ran a tavern at this corner, as did Helen Victor in later years, until a 1960's fire.  The Lutz Insurance Company has occupied the property since 1972.

Click on the old photo to see more detail ... visible at the lower right of the Fire Rim is a water pump with a collecting barrel.  Rumor has it that there are survivors today, who as youngsters drank from this pump when they exited the Opera House next door, where they had been watching a thirst-inducing Western movie.

Hard to see in the old photo -- and hard to believe (but easier to see if you click on it to see the larger version) -- the Socony gas pump price says 16.2 cents per gallon!   The old photo is from the collection of Harold Schaefer, a grandson of Charles Layman.

The Prattsville Fire Rim, now on Museum Grounds

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At the Firemen's Museum, Hudson, NY, you can examine a "rim and hammer" alarm.  A hammer is handily attached to the supporting frame, the usual original set-up.   Our hammer has gone the way of all old hammers.  

But was the Prattsville rim once a rim on a locomotive wheel or not?  There is no appearance of wear on the heavy iron rim.  At about 4 feet in diameter, it does have the outer lip that would keep it safely on a railroad track.

What about the gap in the circle?  A 2 inch break like that would spell disaster on the track.  On the other hand, for an alarm it would allow powerful vibration.

What is the answer?  We hope that the Firemen's Museum will tell us how a fire rim used to be manufactured.  Meanwhile you can visit them daily 9am-4pm, free

FIREMEN'S MUSEUM     Harry Howard Avenue
Hudson, NY  12534      518-828-7695

Virtual Tour:   The Hudson website is rich in graphics and takes a minute to load.  When it does, please click on the Blue Fireman

This page is still under construction

Feb 7, 2001

This history feature is written by Muriel Pons, Prattsville Town Historian and a past President of the Zadock Pratt Museum.  

Muriel Pons lives in Prattsville and is planning to do more research this year to fill in the history features of interest to Prattsville and the Northern Catskills.  You can reach her at:

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Updated on:
21 February, 2019

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