In 1987, the last active duty fire fighting squad pulled out of the Norwood Fire Company No.2. A municipal budget crunch had forced the abandonment of the historic 1914 structure and consolidation of the fire department to a newer, centrally located firehouse. For nearly three decades, the building sat empty on the main thoroughfare through town. The roof leaked, the paint peeled, the wood rotted…
After nearly three decades of neglect, a generous donor offered to fund the restoration of the structure as the new home for the Norwood Firefighters Association, a not-for-profit organization that helps members of the community in time of need. The NFA would use the facility for their offices, fundraising events, and to house a 1920’s Ahrens-Fox fire engine that once served this firehouse as the centerpiece of a new fire fighting history museum.
The project faced numerous challenges, most notably the apparent lack of historical documents, hazardous materials abatement, and several historically insensitive alterations, especially to the windows and doors, that had been implemented over the years. The original windows in the curved bay had long ago been replaced with jalousie style windows. It was uncertain from the onsite evidence whether these windows had once had curved sash or not. Fortunately, after hours of research the name of the original architect, Weber, Werner & Adkins, was discovered which then led to a 1915 publication featuring one photo of the newly built structure. That one photo not only confirmed that the sash had been curved, but it also revealed the original lite and panel design for the carriage doors that had been replaced with upward acting doors sometime prior to 1950. With this evidence in hand, efforts were undertaken to recreate the curved sash, chain and pulley double-hung windows and swinging carriage doors in a historically accurate manner.
Additional historical data was gleaned from careful analysis of the plaster, windows, doors, and stamped tin ceiling to ascertain the original paint colors. The tin ceiling presented a special challenge in that much of it has suffered corrosion to the point of obliteration and its pattern was no longer in production. Again, through extensive research, a source was found that had the original die, but only for one of the three panel sizes required. With some creative thinking, it was determined that the one available size panel could be made then cut up and soldered together to form the other sizes needed. Also missing was a 10′ length of decorative tin molding. A mold was made to match the original and this section was recreated in fiberglass.
Throughout the building, vestiges of its earlier life as an active firehouse, such as handwritten notes, decals in lockers, and address directories, were preserved just the way they had been left nearly three decades prior when the last active firefighter walked out the door.
While preserving the building’s history was paramount, several new elements were also incorporated in a sensitive manner to serve the new function for the NFA, including an accessible restroom, portable ramps, and a kitchenette.
Professional photography by Josh Beeman Photography
To see a related article on LEAD Cincinnati, please click here
To see a related article on Cincinnati Refined, please click here