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Remodeled Fire Station No. 6 opens
Sioux City firefighters Tom Leonard (left) and Lt. Gerry Bennett raise the U.S. flag over the newly re-opened Fire Station 6. (Staff photo by Jerry Mennenga)

Sioux City saved another historic building in 2002 by remodeling Morningside's Fire Station No. 6.

The architect who headed the project to redesign the historic building in Sioux City's Peters Park neighborhood used his experience in renovating the Orpheum Theatre to help him keep the spirit of the 1917-era firehouse.

"I came off the Orpheum project to this project," Ed Storm of FEH Associates said Oct. 22 at an open house for the fire station. "I learned some things at the Orpheum that I applied here.

"One of the things I learned on a historic project is that you need to slow down the construction process. Usually on a project, it's very rapid to get it built. We needed to take the time to put all the pieces together and I think it shows."

He credited L&L Builders' foreman Scott Brown for his efforts in restoring the building.

In February 2002, the City Council voted to remodel the firehouse rather than tear it down and replace it with a vinyl-sided building of contemporary residential design. A 1,500-square-foot addition was added to the original 2,700-square-foot building. Total cost was $730,000, Fire Chief Bob Hamilton said.

Storm and firefighters showed off the reopened Fire Station No. 6, at 4203 Morningside Ave., during official ceremonies Oct. 22. The Fire Department Honor Guard raised an American flag as onlookers watched during a slight snow shower.

Hamilton said the station was completed in 1917 at a cost of $10,000 and was considered one of the most modern of its kind. The horses for the fire rigs were stabled across the street.

Glenda Castleberry, chairwoman of SiouxLandmark, presented Hamilton a plaque commemorating the remodeling project, which saved the California bungalow-style firehouse from the wrecking ball. Members of SiouxLandmark and Sioux City's Historic Preservation Commission lobbied the council to save the building.

"It's a nationally known structure," Castleberry said. "William Steele built the Courthouse in 1918. We haven't been able to document it yet, but I think you can feel the hand of the master here."

Steele, a nationally known architect, designed the Woodbury County Courthouse. She said remodeling the historic building is the best possible outcome for the station.

"It's a living, breathing place and it was restored and will be used."

The remodeled building has a new apparatus bay on the west side that is large enough to accommodate any modern piece of fire equipment, Storm noted.

The former bedroom at the front of the building has been converted into an exercise room. The old exercise area was located in the basement. Now, only mechanical equipment is located there.

FEH designed separate locker and bathroom facilities for men and women firefighters, matching the tile floor in the bathrooms to the style originally found on the living room floor. Currently, none of the three firefighters on each shift who work at Station No. 6 are women.

Historic light fixtures were saved and reused. Fluorescent lights in the locker rooms reflect a 1950s design style. Period hardware was placed on drawers and cupboards.

A sleeping area was added on the north side of the building, containing three sleeping quarters. Like the two other new fire stations, each firefighter's quarters contains a single bed and desk. Instead of using metal partitions, FEH used wood, in keeping with the style of the bungalow.

The bricked-wall living room presented some challenges, Storm said, because the upper half of the creamy-colored brick wall had turned gray due to years of use and smoke from the fireplace.

"It had darkened the whole room," Storm said.

He asked a renovation company from Sioux Falls, with which he is working to renovate the train depot in Cherokee, Iowa, to recommend how to clean them.

"The man and his son ended up coming on a Saturday and using a spray washer under pressure. That really got into the pores and the bricks were restored to their original cream color. This is actually fire brick. It's very porous, which is why it absorbed everything. It was the type of brick used in fireplaces. We thought it was neat for fire brick to be used in a fire hall."

The lower half of the brick walls was restored to its darker red-brick appearance.

Master firefighter Mark Roth said of the fireplace, "They actually had a fire in here once. The fire spread to the book case and then they couldn't use the fireplace anymore."

Roth showed off the hose tower, the three-story high brick tower with a metal ladder attached to one wall that firefighters used to climb, hauling heavy, wet canvas hoses to the top in order to dry them. Although the hoses do not have to be air dried anymore, the tower was kept as a storage room. A radio antenna was installed at the top of the tower.

The architects used maple for the custom-made kitchen cabinets that were stained to match the rest of the oak woodwork. The original doors and windows were kept.

"We actually saved money by using the original windows instead of buying new ones," Storm said.

Chief Hamilton noted that completion of Station No. 6 marks the last of a three-phase project to increase fire protection in Sioux City. Stations No. 5 on Singing Hills Boulevard and No. 3 on Fairmount Street have opened.

"The Greenville, Morningside and South Morningside areas now have adequate fire protection without jeopardizing fire protection in the rest of the community. We are very happy with the outcome of the remodeling," he said.

Mayor Craig Berenstein acknowledged that the issue to raze or remodel was "an emotionally charged issue. ... This community has shown a genuine interest in maintaining historic buildings. ... I think this facility is further evidence of that commitment and dedication."

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