Saturday, August 20, 2016

Former Firehouses - Reused, Renovated, Awaiting New Life

I received the following list from a friend in the St. Louis Fire Department that includes 11 retired firehouses that are still standing as of publishing:

No. 1 - 2411 McNair Avenue, 63104, Benton Park neighborhood (Built 1872)
No. 3 - 3648 S. Broadway, 63118, Marine Villa neighborhood (Built 1919)
No. 7 - 1304 S. 18th Street, 63104 Lafayette Square neighborhood (Built 1897)
No. 26 - 2100 N. 2nd Street, 63102, Near North Riverfront neighborhood (Built 1887)
No. 28 - 3934 Enright Avenue, 63108, Vandeventer neighborhood (Built 1961)
No. 29 - 1219 S. Vandeventer Avenue, 63110, Forest Park Southeast neighborhood (Built 1888)
No. 32 - 2000 Washington Avenue, 63103, Downtown West neighborhood (Built 1892)
No. 32 - 503 N. 20th Street, 63103, Downtown West neighborhood (Built 1919)
No. 36 - 1719 N. Union Boulevard, 63113, Wells Goodfellow neighborhood (Built 1911)
No. 40/41 - 707 N. 11th Street, 63101, Downtown neighborhood (Built 1904)
No. 45 - 914 Allen Avenue, 63104, Soulard neighborhood (Built 1906)

Now keep in mind, this may not be a fully comprehensive list, but it was a place to start and have some fun learning about these amazing St. Louis places with a long history.

In fact, I've discovered several inconsistencies in the ages of the buildings if you use the official St. Louis records as your guide. Furthermore, some of our firehouses have been lost throughout the years to natural catastrophes like cyclones. 

But, when I'm tooling around the older parts of North City I sometimes come across buildings and wonder if they were firehouses at some point, but have no proof. Some just look the part, like this one at 3901-3907 North Vandeventer Avenue. Built in 1890, it has had several lives, including most recently a business called "282 Firehouse". Prior to that it was a car wash:
Google Streetview image (2007)

Anyhow, here's a look at how the remaining retired firehouses look in late summer, 2016:

No. 1 at 2411 McNair Avenue in the Benton Park Neighborhood is a straight up gem. It sits on the recognizable stretch of McNair between the popular Blues City Deli and Hodak's. It was built in 1890 well before a motorized fleet with large hook and ladders existed. This one dates back to when horses were used and likely became obsolete due to its location on a tight intra-neighborhood street that would not allow direct means of egress for the large trucks. Check out the 360 degree video to see how tight a turn would be coming out of the very narrow garage doors.
video
City records indicate that the building changed hands in 1979 from the city to a private entity. It has been residential for awhile.
No. 3 at 3648 South Broadway in the Marine Villa Neighborhood is another Bavarian pearl. This one is likely familiar to most people in St. Louis who will recognize it just south of the Anheuser-Busch/InBev and Lemp breweries or near Off Broadway. City records actually list this one at 3555 Salena Street and list the owner as the City of St. Louis.
Per a plaque, the building was in use by the STLFD from 1914 to 1968. The list above says it was built in 1919. The city records are not updated, so nothing to set the record straight.
Anyhow, per the signage, the exterior renovation was completed around 2001 and was made possible by the 10th Ward taxpayers through a Capital Improvement Tax when Alderman Craig Schmid was in office. The inscription says:
"The land on which this Bavarian-Style structure stands was conveyed to the City of St. Louis with certain restrictions on its use for specific purposes. The interior first floor walls are constructed of white bakery brick left over from construction of the Anheuser-Busch brewery."
Per a brief twitter exchange, it was brought to my attention that there's a group of folks considering the space for a FD museum. I'd love to see that. And, there is a vast empty lot at Miami and Salena directly south of the firehouse that would make a perfect area to park a few retired firetrucks and other equipment to show the technology throughout the years.

No. 7 at 1304 South 18th Street is in the Lafayette Square Neighborhood. Per the list above, it was built in 1897 whereas the official city record lists it at 1900. This is another one that likely became obsolete due to the narrow city street. Either way, it's an oldie but a goodie now zoned commercial as a photography studio.
No. 26 at 2100 North 2nd Street is located on the Near North Riverfront Neighborhood. City records indicate that is was built in 1887, not 1919 per the above list and has been in private hands since the city started posting their data online in 1997.
No. 28 at 3934 Enright Avenue was built in 1900 and renovated around 1960. Again, the list above appears to be incorrect. Per city records, it changed hands from the City of St. Louis to the private sector in 2001 and is now a residence. 

This one has to be the most amazingly transformed space of them all. The current owners have done something truly amazing here, and with their permission, I've linked to their blog "A Fire Pole in the Dining Room" and am including an interior photo. I am in awe of high design and creativity at this level. You have to click around the photos to take in the amazing work. Take special note of the firehose lights. I can image sitting in this place listening and spieling to this.

The property was featured on the popular HGTV show "House Hunters".
The 2007 Google Streetview image shows the home to the east prior to investment and no fence to the west. Today, there is a cool metal fence on the west side of the property.
No. 29 is another one most St. Louisan's will likely recognize as it sits on the west side of the well-travelled Vandeventer Avenue in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood. City records say it was built in 1887, not 1888 per the list. City records also indicated it switched hands to the private sector in 1982. It is currently for sale. Man, the font on this one is so cool.
No. 32 at 2000 Washington Avenue is in the Downtown West Neighborhood. As reported by nextSTL in July, 2015, its owners are seeking a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for tax credits that will assist with a mixed-use renovation to 2nd floor residential and 1st floor retail/commercial. Godspeed good people; opening up those bricked-in windows and front bays would make a world of difference.
No. 36 is listed at 1719 North Union in the Wells/Goodfellow Neighborhood, but the official city record lists it at 1717 North Union Boulevard, indicating ownership by a Florrissant, Missouri guy. The official record also indicates it was built in 1904, not 1911 as per the list I was provided. This one is in pretty rough shape and needs some love.
No. 40/41 is at 707 North 11th Street in the Downtown Neighborhood. It is currently home to a couple legal firms. The city records list the building date at 1887. The information from the list I was provided says it was built in 1904. This one is most recognizable by the firehouse lights above one of the bays.
No. 45 is at 914 Allen Avenue in Soulard, right next to the Smile/Cheer-Up Building. It is currently in use as a personal residence on a great city street. One of the nice touches on this one is the owners retained the brick entryway leading up to the former front entry. They cleared a couple small areas for two small tree planters, forming a charming courtyard in front of the building.
So there you go. Here's to hoping the firehouse on North Union can find some investment and care before it falls further into disrepair and neglect.

2 comments:

  1. Very cool round up! We love seeing old buildings (and particularly fire houses) get new life. Thanks for putting this together!

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  2. Thanks again for another great post about these amazing buildings.

    ReplyDelete