Charlotte Fire Museum History

Left, news photo from 1979 via eBay. Right, Legeros photo from December 2008.

This posting is a series of research notes.

See source documents in this Google drive.

Read a history of Charlotte’s former and historic firehouses

First Iteration (Failed), Old Station 2

1969, January – Plans to open a fire museum are announced at a meeting of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce by Michael G. Allen, chairman of the Fire Prevention Committee. The museum “would contain old fire trucks, fire fighting equipment and uniforms.” He named John Pipkin “chairman of a committee to investigate the possibilities of such a museum” Source: Charlotte News, Jan 30, 1969. 

1972 – Theo Wolfe, owner Floyd Fowler Brake & Wheel Alignment Service & Radiator Repairs, tried and failed to buy Old Station 2, the Dilworth station, that his auto repair establishment occupied. The property owners instead later sold the building to the fire museum organizers. Source: Charlotte News, Aug 4, 1976.

1975, May – By this time a group of citizens had been “working for years” to turn the Dilworth station into a fire museum. They wanted to restore the building to its pre-World War I appearance and estimated that almost $200,000 would be needed to buy the property and restore the building. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission planned to hold hearings over the next few months. They would then ask city council to declare the building a historic site, which would provide “temporary protection” from major alterations or demolition. Source: Charlotte News, May 20, 1975.

1976, January – Museum committee bought the station and the smaller building beside it, to prevent them from being demolished. The combined price was $83,600, which they mortgaged. The fire station cost $40,850. Source: Charlotte News, Dec 14, 1978; Nov 13, 1979.

1976, January 20 – City council designated the Dilworth station a historic property, two years after Charlotte architect Jack Boyte first proposed the action to the city-county historic properties commission. By that time, Boyte was affiliated with the fire museum committee. Source: Charlotte News, Aug 4, 1976.

1976, August – Two groups planned a $150,000 fundraising campaign for the fire museum project: the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Museum Inc. and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial Commission. The latter had contributed $7,500 to the project, to help the museum committee meet its payments on the property. The building, which had housed an auto repair business for the last decade, would be vacated by September. The museum committee expected the building to be ready for use as a fire museum in the early spring of next year. Source: Charlotte News, Aug 4, 1976.

1976, November – The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Museum Inc. was charted on November 3. The founding board consisted of

  • Jack Boyte, architect, president of the Mecklenburg Historical Association, and former director of preservation at the Latta House and other historic sites
  • Charles Henderson, lawyer
  • Joe Morris, retired Fire Chief
  • Jesse Atkins, chief officer
  • Dr. Bonnie Cone
  • Mrs. Frances Gay, owner and restorer of “Victoria” on The Plaza
  • Lewis Bacot, firefighter
  • Otis Dowdy, chief officer
  • Martha Boyte, city-county historic properties commission.

The board estimated that restorations of the building would cost $80,000, and acquisition of artifacts and early firefighting equipment over a five-year period would cost $100,000. Source: Charlotte Observer, Dec 22, 1976, Dec 14, 1978.

1977, June – Fund from the state was sought, but a senate appropriations committee voted against recommending $30,000 “to establish a fire museum in Charlotte.” Source: Charlotte News, June 28, 1977.

1978, November – County commissions declined to take action on a request for money to help establish the fire museum. Earlier that month, the fire museum corporation told the board that it needed $35,000 to “get the project off the ground.” Most of the money was needed to pay the mortgage on the Dilworth station and the adjacent building, which was held by the estates of Ethel Delaney and William Edgar Price II, both deceased. Charlie Henderson, a member of the corporation, said that $10,000 would be used to match a donation from Metric, an affiliate of J. A. Jones Construction Company, the company that had agreed to help repair and renovate the old fire station. Henderson said the corporation would ask the city to make a grant, and hoped that would prompt county commissioners to match the amount. Source: Charlotte News, Nov 27, 1978.

1978 – City council donated several hundred alarm boxes to the museum committee for use as fundraiser, which was held the following year in October 1979. That fundraiser raised $4,500 to help pay the museum’s $70,000 mortgage. Source: Charlotte News, Dec 14, 1978; Oct 11, 1979; Oct 14, 1979; Nov 13, 1979.

1978 December – Museum committee still owed $75,000 on their mortgage. They estimated restoration of the building would take an additional $80,000. Dan Morrell, director of the city-county historic properties committee, was looking into the possibility of grants for the project. He was also preparing an application to get the Dilworth station listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Museum board member Jack Boyte said that he and firefighter Jesse Atkins spoke to civic groups statewide about the project for about a year, and “we got a lot of moral support and very little money.” Source: Charlotte News, Dec 14, 1978.

1979, July – By this time, the Dilworth station has been declared a historic city-county property. Source: Charlotte News, Oct 11, 1979.

1979, October – Museum’s mortgage was $70,000. The owners had to come up with $38,000 by November 26 to prevent foreclosure. The annual operating expenses of the museum, when opened, were expected to be around $15,000. 

1979, November – Attorneys for two estates holding the mortgage on the fire museum property delayed foreclosure and agreed to wait on city council action on a request that the city purchase the property from the museum committee. Source: Charlotte News, Nov 27, 1979.

1980, Jan – Public hearing held, after museum committee asked city in November to spend about $88,000 to buy the Dilworth station and a second building next door. Their fundraising efforts had fallen short and the project was been threatened with foreclosure. Source: Charlotte News, Dec 27, 1979.

1980, Jan – City council requested further study of proposal to purchase the Dilworth station and renovate it as a fire museum. Source: Charlotte News, Jan 8, 1980.

1980, Mar – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission recommended that city council purchase the fire station and adjoining property. Source: Charlotte News, Apr 10, 1980.

1980, Apr – State division of archives and history recommended the fire station building be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Source: Charlotte News, Apr 10, 1980.

1980, Oct – Fire station property was sold to a private buyer, ending plans for a fire museum. Building was subsequently converted into a five-unit office building. Source: Charlotte Observer, Oct 30, 1980; Charlotte News, July 30, 1981. 

1980, Oct 22 – The Dilworth station was entered on the National Register of Historic Places. Source: National Park Service. 

Read the Survey and Research Report on Charlotte Fire Station No. 2 by the city-county historic landmarks commission. 

Read the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form.

Second Iteration, Old Station 4

See Legeros photos from December 2008.

1997 – Fire museum project “gained steam”, when firefighters sought corporate sponsors and collected money from people attending to a Carolina Panthers football game. Source: Charlotte Observer, Apr 4, 2009.

1999, Feb – Incorporation papers filed for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Museum, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The incorporator was DeWitt F. McCarley. 

1999, Mar – Campaign starts to raise $2.5M to convert old Station 4 to a fire museum, following an announcement of the campaign and the location of the museum. The building was donated by owner Michael Lakoff, and was currently occupied as an antique gallery. (It had been used as office space and was remodeled into an art gallery and antique shop.) Mr. Lakeoff was a member of the fire museum board and had toured several other museums throughout the country in January. Source: Charlotte Observer, Mar 12, 1999; Legeros research. 

2002, Jun – Grand opening of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Fire Museum and Education Center. The Saturday event was free, with live entertainment from a New Orleans band, and meal tickets sold for $6 for a barbecue dinner. The event was held from 10 to 5. Permanent operating hours for the museum had not been set. The building had been renovated, mostly with donated time and materials. Source: Charlotte Observer, June 6, 2002; Apr 4, 2009. 

2008, Jul – Property is sold to a private owner. The seller was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. Source: County tax records. 

2009, April – Museum closed after seven years of operation, after the new owner raised and rent and pursued commercial occupancies. It had been open three days a week for tours and birthday parties. Admission was free. The museum’s day of operation was April 30, 2009. The museum board of directors would continue to exist and hadn’t ruled out reopening the museum in the future. Source: Charlotte Observer, Apr 5, 2009; Legeros research.

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