World's Largest Fire Hydrant - Former
Records are made to be broken, and that's apparently what happened to Beaumont, Texas, briefly "Home of the World's Largest Fire Hydrant." A scant two years after the city erected a 24-ft. tall black and white spotted hydrant in front of the Fire Museum of Texas, a taller hydrant was unveiled in upstart Elm Creek, Manitoba. And artist Blue Sky erected his 39 ft. tall "Busted Plug" in Columbia, South Carolina!
But, we wondered, why is there a giant fire hydrant in Beaumont in the first place? In 1999, to promote the re-release of the animated 101 Dalmatians, Walt Disney's Home Video division constructed the World's Largest Fire Hydrant. Assembled at Disney Land, Anaheim, CA, the hydrant weighed 4,500 lbs. and could blast 1,500 gallons of water a minute.
They found a willing permanent venue in front of Beaumont's venerable Fire Museum of Texas, a 1920s-era fire station where vintage trucks, historic nozzles and firebells are exhibited.
The blatantly promotional monolith was dedicated in a media ceremony with much fanfare on March 9, 1999. The fire museum marching band kicked off with the movie's signature song, "Cruella De Vil," while 101 Texas firefighters danced around the hydrant, climaxing as it sprayed firefighters with water and confetti. They shielded themselves with Dalmatian-spotted umbrellas. Then the firefighter families headed off to a complimentary screening of the film.
The World's Largest Fire Hydrant still stands, in a lot a few blocks from part of the city undergoing a commercial rebirth.
While the Hydrant may occasionally serve as a nexus for civic events, its Dalmatian spots seemed in danger of becoming ciphers -- salt air corrosion, public art about racial harmony, or an ill-conceived ad for a dot com-era Gateway store? Fortunately, the museum has maintained the spots and acknowledges their provenance. At the same time, they've re-imagined the once sandy lot as the C.A. "Pete" Shelton Plaza, "dedicated to retired, deceased and fallen firefighters."
As with many claims of civic bigness, Beaumont slipped in the hydrant battle with the emergence of two beefier plugs: 1) Artist Blue Sky used his favorite parking lot in Columbia, South Carolina to unveil a four-story tall steel fire hydrant in February 2001. 2) In July, 2001 on Canada Day, the town of Elm Creek, Manitoba unveiled a 29 and 1/2 ft. tall fire hydrant constructed over a period of seven months by volunteer fire fighters.