Tiny temples of responsibility

Commentary and  photos (below, after text) by WILLIAM MORGAN Though there were once  ubiquitous on city streets the country,  a Gamewell fire-alarm box is more likely these days to be seen on eBay (where they bring up to $500). This decaying beauty on the corner of Batty and Fountain streets, in Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood, fits right into its somewhat tatty surroundings (although the new North Bakery just behind sells a tasty Dan Dan meat pie).


John Gamewell was not the inventor of the telegraphic fire-alarm system, but his Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraphic Company (founded in 1879) cornered the market, putting its distinctive red boxes on street corners everywhere. Common enough to be ignored,  this survivor still shows that Gamewell's warning- system boxes were jewels of classical design.

In the pediment of Gamewell's little temples of civic responsibility is a symbolic fist, representing modern man's ability to harness telegraphic energy .