This past weekend, I had the chance to visit an old house in Northeast Portland—and it was a really weird house. For starters, the staircase to the upstairs was located in the downstairs bathroom
. But I spotted this thing
on the wall of one of the rooms and wondered, what is that? It looked like an old-timey schoolroom bell, but it turned out to be an old-school fire alarm, apparently still installed.
I thought it was cool. You probably don't, but if you do, there are more pics and details after the jump.
The thing's a precursor to a modern-day, battery-powered smoke alarm, and it was originally connected to a selection of the rooms in the house. (There were four sensors total.) The bell, however, would only ring in this downstairs room. I'm assuming it was loud enough to hear from the upstairs.
It even had the user's manual still inside. Judging by the contents of manual, the system must have been installed in 1958 by a company called the American Fire Alarm Co.
, located on SE Powell.
I believe the American Fire Alarm Co. went on to become—or is in some way connected to—the American Fire Prevention Co.
, which is still in business at 512 SE 9th Ave, but there are a couple things here that get me. Note the "BE" prefix to the phone number (which stood for BElmont, which I guess was the phone keyword for the area), plus the baffling "Portland 2" address. Was this because "Portland 1" was in Maine? Or was Portland divided into two sections before ZIP codes became ubiquitous?
If any local history buffs have more info, let me know in the comments. In the meantime, this was a cool old thing to come across. I didn't have the chance to test it to see if it still worked, but I gather at one time this was a top-of-the-line system.