The appealing red brick building that you see was the oldest continuously operating fire station in the city of Detroit when it closed in 2012 at age 120. The near east side area of Detroit became a densely-settled residential neighborhood in the last two decades of the Nineteenth Century. As you drive around these neighborhoods, you will see a few homes that date from that period, but many of the modest residences you see were built after 1900 as Detroit became the nation’s leading industrial center. Before the era of zoning, many machine shops and small factories were located in this area, providing employment for the residents who came to this section of Detroit from Germany, Poland, Canada and the rural Midwest. In the early automobile era, larger plants began to locate along the rail lines on the east side of Detroit, and in 1908, the Packard Motor Company began to erect their huge plant that still strides across East Grand Boulevard.
With the location of so many homes, production shops and stores in this area, the city needed to add a new fire station. The closest nearby one was Engine House #11 on Gratiot near Chene, a station that had opened in 1884. Two of the city’s leading architects—George Mason and Zacharias Rice—were selected to design a significant, but functional, building. In keeping with the Late Victorian era, Mason and Rice selected a Queen Anne style, two-story building with attention paid to the design of the roof. Red brick is the major construction materials, but to design an appealing station for the men and horses who would work there, they used salmon-colored brick and red-orange sandstone for trim. As you notice, there is a high double-pitched roof above the Mount Elliott frontage of this building. The dormers have decorative wooden cornices with stylized human faces, serpents and dragonheads. I don’t know who carved these decorations or what theme motivated this creative work. That was an era in which elaborately decorated carvings in wood or stone were added to the cornices of many public buildings. An addition at the rear of this fire station was constructed in 1949. As designed the building included a hose drying chamber that stretched from the ground to the attic and stables in the rear of the building.
The small village of Detroit established a volunteer fire company in and purchased their first pumper in 1825, some two decades after the city was razed by baker Harvey’s fire. By 1858, Detroit had a professional fire fighting staff governed, since 1867, by a board of five fire commissioners. Engine House #18 was, for a time, the oldest operating fire station in Detroit, although two older buildings still stand, including nearby Engine House #11 at 2773 Gratiot.
This fire station was closed in 2012. In May, 2013, the city of Detroit announced that they would attempt to sell eight fire stations that were no longer in use. For this one, the asking price was established at $95,000. This fire house was subsequently purchased and the new owners undertook the conversion of this building into an upscale residence.
Architects: George Mason and Zacharias Rice
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Date of construction: 1892
Construction firm: Vinton & Company
Use in 2017: Residence or about to be a residence
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Listed P757
State of Michigan Historical Marker: None Visible
National Register of Historic Sites: #95001368 Listed November 29, 1995
Photograph: Ren Farley; August 11, 2007
Description Updated: January, 2017
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