Recently we had the honor of revising a guidebook written by the late John Kelso, a humorist and longtime columnist for the Austin American-Stateman. His book, Texas Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff, covers some of the more unique attractions in Texas–including many Instagram-worthy stops for you and your dog like the World’s Largest Squirrel statue in Cedar Creek, Texas’s own version of Stonehenge, the world’s biggest strawberry, the world’s largest killer bee, and even the World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant.
Published by Rowman and Littlefield, this 224-page book is available at bookstores across the state as well as online (including Amazon). We wanted to share one of the chapters of this fun read, a must-stop location for dog lovers in the city of Beaumont. Not only does the fire hydrant make a great photo, but, unless packed with school groups, dogs are generally permitted inside the museum as well where you’ll find a doghouse in the shape of a fire hydrant, displays on the history of fire dogs, and much more.
We hope you’ll enjoy glimpse of Texas Curiosities!
World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant
I just had to ask: Do folks walk their dogs around the World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant, located outside the Fire Museum of Texas? “Uh, no,” said Susan Lanning, the museum’s former director. Then what’s the matter with them? If I lived in Beaumont and if I didn’t have a dog, I’d go get one just because of this artwork.
Well, it was the world’s largest fire hydrant when it was built in 1999, but some folks just can’t let a world’s record alone. So in 2001, larger ones appeared in Columbia, South Carolina, and Elm Creek, Manitoba.
Walt Disney Company built the twenty-four-foot-tall fiberglass fire hydrant to promote its 101 Dalmatians movie, which explains the hydrant’s black-and-white–spotted paint job. Disney “did this whole media event,” Lanning recalled. “They had over one hundred local firefighters dressed up in their turnout gear carrying Dalmatian-spotted umbrellas, and they did a dance routine.”
“It shoots water out of the top like a sprinkler system,” Lanning said. So today this is the world’s largest fire hydrant that actually works.
The hydrant may not attract a lot of beagles and their owners, but it does bring a bunch of people with cameras and may be the most photographed attraction in town. “The fire hydrant—it’s like our giant ball of twine,” said Timothy Kelly, editor of the Beaumont Enterprise, the town’s daily newspaper. “I’ve watched minivans pull up, people jump out and take a picture, then move on. It’s pretty funny.”
Kelly said it isn’t unusual for Disney to put up promotional stuff around these parts. He recalled a fabric Great Wall of China that Disney constructed in nearby China, Texas, to promote the movie Mulan.
“It was humongous,” said former China City Secretary Jerry Howard. “I forget how long that thing was. It was at least one hundred to two hundred feet long.”
The Fire Museum of Texas (www.fmotassn.com; 400 Walnut St.) is not only an exceptional museum exhibiting vintage equipment and memorabilia but is also the headquarters of the Beaumont Fire Department.
Photo courtesy Beaumont CVB