The beige stucco that once dominated the corner of East 22nd avenue and Nootka is gone.
Now the nearly 100-year-old Firehall No. 15 is clad with brown cedar siding and creamy white trim while massive fir doors mark the twin bays through which horse-drawn fire steam engines once charged.
“It looks better than it did, actually, frankly,” said Donald Luxton, president of Heritage Vancouver.
“The community gets the credit… It was very much a community-based effort and I’m sure they’re just delighted,” he added about residents of Renfrew-Collingwood.
Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services will open the restored Edwardian-era fire hall and its three-bay addition this Saturday, May 12.
The project was years and millions of dollars in the making.
The old building was leaking and fire services wanted a modern three-bay facility that could house its larger trucks. Demolition and redevelopment would have cost less than redevelopment and restoration.
Some city hall watchers wondered why council would choose to spend more than six figures to save the old structure in tight times.
But Luxton says preserving the second oldest fire hall in the city was worth the extra expense.
“They’re not making any more. It’s a non-renewable resource and in many ways we have to preserve what we can of our past or we will having nothing,” he said.
An adjacent home was demolished to pave the way for the addition, and operations moved to a temporary spot in 2009. Those moves combined with the design, construction new furniture and equipment cost approximately $8.5 million.
Last year multiple cranes hoisted the wood-frame structure that was built in 1913 and 1914 and shifted it eight feet so pipes could be placed as deep as 400 feet in the ground to equip the energy saving building with a geothermal heating and cooling system. A steel frame was installed to help the fire hall withstand an 8.5-magnitude earthquake.
A community meeting room sits behind one of the old bay doors. In a hall behind the room, a display case houses the red fire alarms that used to dot city posts as well as hats, nozzles and a leather-smoke protecting hood, billed to shield wearers from “bad airs.” An old brass pole has also been restored at the station.
The main floor includes a fire protection office, the basement a high-tech training room, the underground parking a charging station for electric vehicles and the second floor dormitories and bedrooms for the top ranking firefighters.
The north wall upstairs is the only one in the building that releases heat, says No. 15’s captain, Graham Macfarlane. That’s because Hughes Condon Marler Architects preserved the roller and weight system for the old windows, the original wood embedded within the new frames. The pressed tin ceiling and old wooden floors were reused throughout the fire hall, as were the stones that formed the original granite wall outside.
“They did a spectacular job of retaining what the hall looked like,” Macfarlane said. “Everything’s where it should be.”
The opening ceremony at 3003 East 22nd Ave. starts at 11 a.m. The fire hall will be dedicated to the memory of Captain Rob Hall who died in the line of duty in 2007. Visitors can see a 1912 fire truck at the event.