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    What to do with vintage fire hydrants

    I was about to walk right past the two rusted fire hydrants, but stopped. I stood there looking at them, wondering: How exactly do you re-use old fire hydrants?

    No quick answer popped into my head, but another question did. How the heck did they end up in a back yard lot at this auction house? Did some fire department toss them in the trash after they’d burned out, and someone retrieved them? Or were they sold for scrap?

    They looked to be old and much used, so I assumed that they were replaced by newer and more efficient models. I had never seen vintage fire hydrants offered at auction before, so I wasn’t sure what to make of them.

    vintage fire hydrants

    These old fire hydrants look as if they’ve been put to good use. At auction, they were looking for a new home.

    They’re so heavy and bulky, it never occurred to me that they were collectible. I should’ve known better, because just about everything is collected. And so are fire hydrants. Some collectors have so many of them that they have opened their own private museums, according to a website for such collectors. The website offered tips on collecting and restoring them, along with photos from some of the collections.

    Since I’m not into collecting them, I automatically tried to think of ways to transform the ones at auction into decorative art for the home or yard. Outdoors, you could retain their grimy patina, which gave them character and history. Inside, you’d have to clean and then paint them a color to blend in with your home’s décor.

    Painting hydrants publicly seems to be a pretty popular pastime in many cities, especially as contests to get citizens involved. Many communities apparently started painting their fire hydrants in patriotic colors around the time of the country’s Bicentennial in 1976. Some made them up in the colors of the flag, while others dressed them as historic figures, according to the website of the city of South Bend, IN. When the celebration was over, some of the cities reverted back to the traditional colors. South Bend still paints and touches up its hydrants.

    vintage fire hydrant

    The flip side of the two fire hydrants at auction.

    I came across several stories on fire-hydrant-painting contests. There was a contest in Harrisburg, PA, where residents could vote on the best painted of 57 colorful hydrants. Then there was the Great Chicago Fire Hydrants public art project last year to celebrate that city’s police officers and firefighters. It attracted a rock star, renowned artist and 12-year-old self-taught artist. Down in Chipley, FL, earlier this year, locals participated in a Paint the Plug contest. For the first time in its 125-year history, the water department in the city of Anaheim, CA, tried it, opening the contest up to its youngest citizens.

    There is a purpose to how hydrants are painted. After a contest the year before, one city warned residents not to paint hydrants in their yard. The hydrants are color-coded to alert firefighters to the volume of water each produces, per the standards of the National Fire Protection Association.

    I didn’t buy the hydrants at auction and I wasn’t around when they were sold. Someone with a better decorating eye than mine could likely turn them into something lovely. I’d go with leaving them as they are. Erect them in a back yard and wow guests. I wouldn’t place them in the front yard of my home, though. Too many dog walkers on my street.

    Here are a few ways hydrants could be used for home or yard decorating.

    How would you use old fire hydrants?

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