Retro Charlotte

The rescue of Fireman’s Hall

The building was in poor condition in 1978.
The building was in poor condition in 1978. The Charlotte Observer

Observer business reporter Doug Smith reported in 2003 on plans to save Fireman’s Hall – efforts that would finally preserve the Depression-era stone building.

“Fireman’s Hall, a 63-year-old Charlotte landmark threatened with demolition a few years ago, will get a second life. A developer working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission plans to restore the 9,685-square-foot assembly hall and six-story training tower at Seventh and Fifth streets.

“Charlotte firefighters helped build the medieval castle-like hall from 1938 to 1940, hauling stone from an abandoned tannery nearby and later digging out much of the basement.

“Dan Morrill, the landmarks commission’s consulting director, said the training hall and tower complex – originally known as the Palmer Fire School – was one of only two such training facilities in the nation at the time. The school was named for William Hendrix Palmer, the fire chief who championed the idea. The Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era agency created by the Roosevelt administration to put people to work, began construction 1938.

“Fireman’s Hall’s chances of survival appeared bleak three years ago when county officials estimated that renovating the condemned building would cost $350,000 to $500,000.

“Bryan Barwick of Barwick & Associates worked with Morrill, representatives of the firefighters association, architects and land planners to design a restoration sensitive to the history of the site. He estimated the $4 million project, to be done in two phases, will include two new office condo buildings mimicking the features of the all-brick training tower and stone building.

“About 2.5 acres of undeveloped land between the buildings and Seventh Street will be deeded to the county for the Elizabeth greenway, Morrill said.

“Mike Spath, president of the Charlotte Firefighters Association, said he believes the site will become an important place for his members to gather for memorial services and special events. In addition to its administrative offices, he said, the association will use Fireman’s Hall for conferences, meetings and social events.”