On the other hand... Editorial: Deep six No. 5
Calgary Herald, June 1, 2011
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Station No. 5 is the oldest working firehall in Calgary, but that doesn’t mean it should be saved from demolition. The building, at 59, is too young to be of significant historic value, yet too old to meet today’s modern firefighting needs. Among the host of troubles facing the aging structure is a floor that’s cracking under the weight of heavy fire equipment and a building that’s too small to house modern ladder trucks.
As nice as it would be to modernize the facility, the fire department says it has exhausted all options to save the building. It will be torn down and a new station built in its place on the same site at 3129 14th St. S.W.
That’s likely a wise decision. From a heritage perspective, Station No. 5 is young. It’s not even the original station, but the third incarnation, built in 1952. The Calgary Fire Department’s first Station No. 5 was built in 1909 at 1139 17th Ave. That’s long gone and now an apartment building sits on the site. We’re not even talking about the second Station No. 5, which was a Depression-era house at 1629 Scotland St. S.W.
If Calgary’s third version of the city’s fifth fire station is an example of anything, it’s the beginning of suburbia that marked the resurgence of south Calgary in the 1950s. The most interesting aspects are outside the building. The two antique rigs sitting in the garden area in front of the station used to carry hoses to early Calgary fires.
Keeping the building would mean another station would have to be built next door, which would eat up precious green space.
If this were the original station, we would be advocating fiercely for it to be given protective heritage designation. That would put it in the same category as the original firehall Station No. 6, the old brick horse stable on Memorial Drive that, for decades, housed the Calgary Fire Department’s live fleet. We wouldn’t stand by quietly and watch the former Parks Outdoor Resource Centre home be torn down, nor do we have to, because it has the protection of historic resources. It also has a lineup of writers, architects and outdoor enthusiasts wanting to move in, as the city determines its next use, and while it remains closed indefinitely because of ongoing construction.
The little brick two-storey building is a gem that literally sits on the Bow River at Memorial Drive and 10th Street N.W.
The sense of history emanates from this old hall, built in 1906, and some say it is haunted. People report hearing the sounds of clattering hoofs on a cement floor, whinnying horses and a bell ringing in the distance.
Sadly, the original Station No. 5 is already gone. The fire department promises to carefully take down the current building brick by brick, and incorporate whatever material it can in the new building.
We love our heritage and want to protect what’s left, but not all buildings are made equally. Nor should they all be treated that way.
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