Exploring Charlotte Fire’s New Headquarters

We recently paid a visit to the Charlotte Fire Department’s new headquarters. Opened last year, the two-story, 36,000 square-foot facility is located at 500 Dalton Avenue. That’s just north of uptown, on a prominent parcel between Statesville Avenue and North Graham Street. The triangular, ten-acre site was last occupied by a Sealtest plant and office building. They made ice cream.

This is CFD’s second dedicated headquarters. The first was built beside the old City Hall at Fourth and Davidson streets and was co-located with Station 1. That building was demolished in 1991, and fire administration relocated to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. Later they moved to lease spaces on 7th Street (fire prevention) and 9th Street (everyone else).

The $16 million facility was dedicated on April 11, 2015. The architects were Charlotte firm Tobin Starr. (See their project page.) The facility culminated a five-year project that started when the department began looking for property in 2010. (They considered renovating the Sealtest office building, but code compliance proved cost-prohibitive.) The city’s also hoping that the building will spur redevelopment efforts along the corridor. They’re also planning expansions on the site itself. Next is a new 911 center, to be built in the rear. (Or is that the front?) The center is currently housed at Station 1 at 221 N. Myers Street.

What’s inside the impressive brick, stone, steel, and glass structure? Some 70 employees who work in the offices of the Fire Chief, his Command Staff, the Fire Prevention Bureau, the EM department, and IT department. The building’s also expandable, and was designed to serve CFD for the next century. That’s right, a hundred years. “We desperately try to building every building to last 100 years,” said Deputy Chief Rich Granger in this Charlotte Observer story from last year.

Among the design features, notes this FireRescue1 story, are the use of high-performance materials, including high-efficiency heating, cooling, and lighting systems. They’ve maximized access to natural daylight and included five large skylights on the second floor. The building’s designed for 24/7 operation and includes emergency power supplies. There’s also a large conference room that can serve as both meeting space and as a venue for promotional ceremonies and other functions. It’s called Fireman’s Hall.

But let’s talk about that lobby.

Of particular interest to Yours Truly is the building’s lobby, which also functions as a mini-museum. Displayed are three hand- and horse-drawn pieces of apparatus: a 1903 American LaFrance steam engine, an 1866 Jeffers hand engine, and a hand hose reel. The hand engine is particularly impressive both in presentation (the polished wood and metal surfaces absolutely gleam) and its history (operated by white Hornet Fire Company until 1871, then transferred to the black Neptune fire company).

The hand engine was sold in 1901, and moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts. Five years later, it was sold to the Westfield Veterans Association and used exclusively for tournaments. Fast-forward a hundred years and Charlotte Fire Department members located the thing in Newberry, MA. It was displayed in the American Hand Engine Society Museum since the 1990s. The museum agreed to sell the engine to its original owners, and it soon returned to the Queen City.

Below is a video of both engines in action at the Raleigh fire expo in 2011. See more photos of the new building and it’s antiques.

As for the Charlotte Fire Department, they’re the largest in the state. Stats from last year’s Observer article cite 1,172 employees (and now 42 stations), and in 2014 (?) answered 103,473 calls, conducted 42,000 inspections, and 7,000 building plans reviews.

Now for the reader question. What other impressive headquarters buildings do readers like in the Carolinas?



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