Fire Station #1 Turns 99 Years Old Today

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Fire Station #1 circa 1912

Roanoke’s oldest Firehouse turns 99 years old today. Fire Station #1 has been in service for almost an entire century. The Firehouse, located at 13 Church Ave. SE, is a popular tourist attraction for people from up and down the East Coast. The station stands mostly as it was built originally. The bell was removed from the bell tower several years ago and N+W refinished it.

From left to right: Russell Barton, machinist; Reggie Ginter, painter; Karl Taylor, laborer; Doug Gibson, machinist. Not shown: Pete Gentry, laborer

Norfolk Southern Roanoke Locomotive Shop employees restored a badly corroded fire bell that had hung in the tower of a Roanoke fire station since 1906, giving it new life for a Sept. 11 memorial observance. The 116-year-old bell originally was used to alert firefighters to come to the station and man horse-drawn fire wagons to fight fires. The bell was cast in Baltimore in 1886, and hung for 10 years in a volunteer fire company in Roanoke. (Read More) Special thanks to Lt. Baron Gibson of 6C for coordinating the refurbish effort of the bell.

#1 Fire Station
Built in 1907 is still operational today. This historic landmark was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Sir Christopher Wren’’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The firehouse is of brick walls built on a limestone foundation, with the first story constructed to look “rustic.” These brick walls, made of mud pulled from the Roanoke Valley’’s marshlands, reportedly “sweated” salt that was then licked by the horses housed downstairs, who left their tongue prints on the walls. The arches and pilasters point to Wren, originator of the Georgian style, and the cupola (bell tower) is reminiscent of Independence Hall.

Fire Station #1 is the oldest paid firehouse operating in Virginia. Fire Station #1 information can be viewed on the Maurice Wiseman Project. More information can be viewed on the historic Fire Stations page of the site. Fire Station #1 remains one of the premier assignments in the City. The Roanoke Firefighters are proud of their heritage, tradition, and history. If you have not stopped by Fire Station #1 recently, I recommend that you do. The guys would love to show you around.

Fire Station #1 circa 2005

As for what the future holds for our beloved firehouse, only time will tell. Currently the City is building a new Fire-EMS Headquarters at the corner of Elm and Franklin. Station #3 will be closed and the units/personnel will be moved to the new station.

On a personal note:
This old rustic fire station is what I love about Roanoke. That this firehouse can sit among the much taller giants of Downtown Roanoke and beat it’s chest for 99 years. It is this that brought me to Roanoke. The fact that new and old can coexist cohesively together. That among technologies we take for granted, your neighborhood firefighters willingly operate out of a 100 year old house. It is picturesque when a turn of the century firetruck exits a century old station built for horses. This is what Roanoke is all about.

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