Historic Fire Station Finds New Life

At the turn of the last century, Houston was thriving with over 44, 000 people, fueled by the influx of Galvestonians, who fled the island following the 1900 hurricane.

Fire Station No. 6 was 1 of 7 in Houston when it was built in 1903. The all-brick building on Washington, just west of downtown, was hailed as one of the most modern fire stations of its time. It featured cold and hot running water in its bathrooms.

But to keep up with the city's growth, #6 eventually moved to its new location in 1931.

The old building passed through several owners, and tried to find new life as a salvage company and an auction house. In 2005, it caught the eye of Tom Hair, president of AXIOM, a hybrid advertising and marketing firm.

"I was just out looking for a place, and it really was love at first sight quite honestly. I mean the building had great architecture and just fell in love with it."

He spent the next year and half restoring the structure and bought property next door to expand the building.

"But then as a business, we had to deal with some other things that were happening — the economy got a little turbulent. But then in 2010, we went back to work on designing the addition to the building and finishing construction."

He says it was his mission to keep Fire Station 6 as historically compliant as possible.

"Everything is custom in an old building like this. There's nothing that's off-the-shelf. The bricks we used for the add, they're also 100 year old bricks. The flooring upstairs, the pine flooring, instead of new wood, we brought in 100 year old wood. So there were lots of decisions, I think, that are not only custom but, they can be costly."

But Fire Station 6 has been restored, complete with the original fire poles. Artifacts from the Houston Fire Museum are now on display at the old Fire Station 6.

Tristan Smith is the museum's executive director. He's impressed with the restoration that captured the history.

"But also the spirit of the building itself, and knowing the people who inhabited that building and who lived in that building. You really get a good sense of the soul of what that building and that space really is."

David Bush with Preservation Houston says he admires the effort to find a new use for Fire Station 6.
  
"When you look at these buildings, I think a lot of times we just have a lack of vision and maybe a lack of imagination. You just have to look at it a little differently and not say, 'Oh well, it's an old fire station. The trucks won't fit in it. We'll get rid of it.'"

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