How Goliath the Fire Horse became a hero in Baltimore's Great Fire

At 10:48 A.M., on Sunday, February 7, 1904 a fire alarm sounded in the John E. Hurst Company building, located between Hopkins Place and Liberty Street on the south side of German Street (now Redwood). A watchman saw smoke coming from the basement of the building.

No. 15 Engine Company of the Baltimore City Fire Department raced to the Hurst building along with other nearby fire companies. Firemen broke down the door and sprayed water into the basement. The building filled with smoke.

Soon the firemen heard a roaring, whistling sound. They heard the doors on upper floors bang shut. The firemen thought that a watchman closed the doors on the upper floors to slow the progress of the fire. Next came a huge explosion with shooting flames, which blew out the building’s walls. The firemen who were in the building were fortunate to escape with their lives.

Water Tower No. 2 had just arrived and was put in place, just as the walls fell and flames belched from the burning building. The lead horse, Goliath, was severely burned. Through his massive strength and determination, Goliath still managed to pull the fire tower and the firemen to safety.

Water towers like the one Goliath pulled in the Great Baltimore Fire, came into use around the 1880s.

Water towers like the one Goliath pulled in the Great Baltimore Fire, came into use around the 1880s.

The fire grew and over the next thirty hours destroyed much of central Baltimore, including over 1,500 buildings covering an area of some 140 acres. It is considered the third worst conflagration in an American city, surpassed only by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.   

Library of Congress image

Library of Congress image

Library of Congress image 

Library of Congress image 

Goliath became a true hero to the people of Baltimore. He recovered from his severe burns but the scarring that showed the seriousness of his injury remained visible.

Goliath At Station 15.jpg

On September 13, 1904, Goliath strutted in a parade to honor firefighters and the rebuilding of the city. Adorned with garlands, Goliath became the favorite animal of Baltimore’s children. He marched in many parades and appeared at community festivals throughout his life.

In 1906, the City of Baltimore passed a resolution to retain Goliath in service even after he become unfit for active duty. For 20 years after the fire until the time of his death, Goliath was lovingly cared for by Baltimore’s firefighters.

He was buried with honors on the grounds of Stoneleigh Villa, a private residence in Towson, Maryland. Stoneleigh Villa was later razed to make way for the present-day Stoneleigh neighborhood. 

Read more:
In 1906, city recalled another disaster, by Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun, September 9, 2006

Goliath, by Ric Cotton, WYPR, February 2, 2016

Your Maryland, by Ric Cotton, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017

The Ordinances of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 1906 - 07

The 1904 Fire and the Baltimore Standard, by Bruce Goldfarb, Welcome to Baltimore, Hon! 

Baltimore's Great Fire of 1904 and Its Legacy, by Delores Monet, Owlcation 

Petersen, P. 2004. The Great Baltimore Fire. Baltimore: The Maryland Historical Society

Friddell, C. 2010. Goliath Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire. Ann Arbor: Sleeping Bear Press.

The Great Baltimore Fire, Wikipedia