Galveston Historical Foundation plans to demolish and reconstruct three walls of a 115-year-old fire station at 29th and Market streets, which some groups have wanted restored for years.
The foundation originally hoped to rehabilitate the Star State Company No. 3 Firehouse, 2828 Market St., but tearing down three walls, held up now with braces, is the best option, foundation Executive Director Dwayne Jones said.
The city’s landmark commission gave the project the green light Monday, unanimously approving what staff called an “unusual” request because of the building’s advanced state of disrepair, commissioners said.
First, crews must stabilize the south-facing facade, which the foundation plans to keep standing, Jones said.
“It’s an important part of the community’s history and it’s rarely been really talked about,” Jones said.
The foundation is looking at several months and several hundred thousand dollars of work to bring the building to a safe and usable state, Jones said.
He hopes to have the building ready by the end of next summer and the foundation is working with its own money, he said.
The foundation gained ownership of the firehouse in early 2017, several years after the firehouse had fallen into disrepair, said island architect David Watson.
Watson has been working on the project for years and has worked on other historic buildings around Galveston, he said.
Once the front facade is stabilized, crews will construct a steel frame for the three new walls, Watson said.
“We want to get the backup building up as quickly as possible and we can put up a steel building in a couple days compared to a wood frame building,” Watson said.
The new walls need to go up fast to stabilize the front facade, he said. He hopes to finish the exterior walls within six months of starting the project, he said.
“It’s one of those projects that we’re more excited to be working on,” Watson said. “We’re working on it just out of passion.”
The building is significant because it was the first Galveston firehouse to integrate with African-American firemen in 1957, Watson said.
Founded in 1859, Star State No. 3 was the third firehouse in Galveston. The current building was built in 1903 after the 1900 Storm destroyed the original.
Reconstructing the No. 3 firehouse is a component of a larger effort to revitalize several historic buildings downtown and revamp the area north of Broadway, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.
The firehouse is an important part of Galveston history, District 3 City Councilman David Collins said.
“This is a beautiful building and it’d be a shame if we lost it completely,” Collins said. “We came very close.”
Once restored, the foundation could keep the property or sell it to a private company for use as restaurant or retail space, Jones said.
Either way, he hopes the building will have some memorial to the building’s history, he said.
“One thing we’d like to do is recognize the firemen who worked there and had done fire work there in the community for a long time,” Jones said.