Charlotte Fire Station No. 6
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This report was written on April 4, 1988
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as
Charlotte Fire Station No. 6 is located at 249 S. Laurel Ave. in Charlotte,
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
City of Charlotte
c/o Charlotte City Manager's office
Charlotte City Hall
600 E. Trade St.
Charlotte, N.C. 28202
The tenant of the building is the Charlotte Fire Department. For
Mr. Robert Ellison
Assistant Chief for Administration
Charlotte Fire Department
125 S. Davidson St. Charlotte, N.C. 28202
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map which depicts the location of the property.
Click on the map to browse
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg Deed Book 717, Page
361. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 155-034-17.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by
8. Documentation of and in what ways the property meets the criteria
for designation-set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as Charlotte Fire Station No. 6 does possess special significance in
terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
following considerations: 1) Charlotte Fire Station No. 6, erected in
1928-1929, was designed by
Charles Christian Hook (1864-1938), an architect of local and regional
significance; 2) Charlotte Fire Station No. 6 has served from the outset
as the fire station for the
Crescent Heights, and
Elizabeth neighborhoods; 3) Charlotte Fire Station No. 6, one of three
fire stations which Hook designed in Charlotte and which, happily,
survive, was part of a major expansion program instituted in the 1920's by
Hendrix Palmer, Charlotte Fire Chief; and 4) Charlotte Fire Station No. 6
is an excellent example of non-residential architecture which harmonizes
successfully with the surrounding neighborhood.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description by Joseph Schuchman which is included in this report
demonstrates that Charlotte Fire Station No. 6 meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50%
of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes
"historic property." The current appraised value of the improvement is
$116,860. The current appraised value of the .434 acres of land is $51,000.
The total appraised value of the property is $167,860. The property is zoned
Date of Preparation of this Report: April 4, 1988
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St. Box D
Charlotte, N.C., 28203
by Dr. William H. Huff man
One of the most charming of the city's official buildings remaining from
the time of its unprecedented growth in the pre-Depression era is the
Charlotte Fire Station #6. Built in 1928-29 to serve newly annexed suburbs
south of the city center, it was designed by one of the city's premier
architects, Charles C. Hook.
The need for new suburban fire stations was a result of forty-some years
of rapid expansion from the late 1880s to the end of the 1920s. Charlotte's
growth during this period was fueled by its location as a rail center in the
heart of the fast-paced New South industrialization of the Piedmont
Carolinas based on cotton growing, shipping and cloth manufacturing.
Mecklenburg County was in itself an important cotton manufacturing center
(at one point it was second only to Gaston County), but it was the city's
importance as a banking and distribution center which served the surrounding
industry that was responsible for its rapid growth and rising prosperity.
1 The advent of the electric
streetcar in the 1890s coincided with boom times for the city, and made
possible suburban development out from the city center, which attracted
wealthy and middle class buyers. To the south, suburban growth served by the
Crescent Heights (1907-09), and Myers Park (1912-1920s). In 1927,
developer E. C. Griffith, who was a subcontractor for the building of part
Park for George Stephens, laid out the first suburb based on the
Eastover, which was originally bounded roughly by Laurel, both sides of
Cherokee, Colville, and Cherokee Place. Eastover and its extensions were
filled in mainly from the 1930s to the 1960s. 2
In 1928, the city annexed Elizabeth, Crescent Heights and Myers Park, and
then proceeded to provide for fire protection in the newly acquired areas.
To do so, it bought a lot at the northeast edge of the brand-new Eastover
subdivision in September of that year from the E. C. Griffith Company, and
commissioned Charlotte architect C. C. Hook to design a new, two-bay fire
station for the location. 3 Charles Christian Hook (1864-1938)
was one of the city's outstanding architects. A Washington University (St.
Louis) graduate, he began practicing architecture in Charlotte in 1893
following three years of teaching in the public schools. From time to time
he was in partnership with others: Frank Sawyer, 1902-1907; Willard Rogers,
1912-1916; and with his son, W. W. Hook, 1924-1938. Beginning with design
work for the new suburb of Dilworth in the 1890s, Hook eventually produced
many of the city's important landmarks, including the
Charlotte City Hall, the
Charlotte Women's Club, the
J. B. Duke mansion on Hermitage Road, the Belk Brothers Trade Street
facade of 1927, and the
Belk mansion on Hawthorne Lane. Among his many works to be found
throughout the state are the west wing of the state capital in Raleigh, the
Richmond County courthouse, Phillips Hall in Chapel Hill and the State
Hospital in Raleigh. 4 On April 9, 1929, the city commissioners
(of Public Safety and Public Works) inspected the newly completed facility
from "top to bottom" with Fire Chief Hendrix Palmer and Louis Sutherland of
C. C. Hook's office, and gave it their official approval. The same day they
also inspected a companion building, also designed by Hook, that had a brick
facade instead of the stone on Station #6, in Seversville ( Fire Station #5,
now on Tuckaseegee Road). As reported in the Charlotte Observer,
"When they returned to the city hall they said they were very well satisfied
with the new stations and gave high praise to the Carolina company,
contractor for the work." The new stations were to be put in service in a
week, with a crew of twenty-eight firemen each: "To start with, three
experienced firemen and two of the appointed [new] ones will be on each
truck and engine company." It was noted that the stations would "keep
Charlotte in the Class A group of cities to insure the lowest possible rate
of insurance." 5
Indeed, for many years Charlotte was known statewide and nationally for
its leadership in firefighting, primarily because of its longtime chief,
Hendrix Palmer (1884-1955). Palmer, a forty-year veteran of the department
who was chief from 1927 to 1948, was recognized internationally as a
progressive innovator in firefighting. He was twice elected president of the
North Carolina Firemen's Association, and helped organize the N.C. Fire
Chiefs Association and served as its first president. The highlight of his
career came in 1940, when he was elected president of the International
Association of Fire Chiefs, the most prestigious post of his profession.
Among other distinctions, he is given credit for "designing and promoting
the manufacture of the first enclosed fire truck in America," which went on
to become standard equipment throughout the country. Palmer also promoted
the building of a fire training school in Charlotte (completed in 1940),
which bears his name and became the main fire training school for
departments from around the state. 6
Charlotte Fire Station #6, which is still in use today, has not really
changed at all, and completely retains all its original charm. To walk in
through its inviting stone and brick facade and experience its human-size
scale and tidy atmosphere is to walk back to an earlier time when life
seemed much more orderly, and certainly less complex.
1 Thomas Hanchett, "Charlotte Neighborhood Survey," Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1984.
3 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 717, P. 361, 1 Sept. 1928; Map
Book 4, p. 317; plaque on the wall of Fire Station #6.
4 Information on file at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic
5 Charlotte Observer. April 9, 1929, Section 2, p. 1;
see note 1.
6 William H. Huffman, "A Historical Sketch of the Palmer Fire
School," Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, October,
by Joseph Schuchman
November 8, 1985
Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, few public
buildings were allowed a stylistic latitude permitted private homes.
Firehouses were a notable exception. Since there was no prevailing opinion
of the "proper" style for a fire station, architects experimented with the
popular decorative ideas of the day, resulting in some notable and, at
times, whimsical civic architecture. With the development of the residential
suburb, architects designed a new type of firehouse, one intended to respect
the aesthetics of the surrounding neighborhood. 1
In 1928, Charlotte architect C.C. Hook (1864-1938) was commissioned to
design a two-bay fire station on Laurel Avenue in the new Eastover
subdivision. 2 The end result was a picturesque two story
structure which survives largely intact and which remains a perfect
companion to the surrounding residential fabric. Hook incorporated a variety
of stylistic elements including classical symmetrical massing, round arched
windows which are a typical feature of the Colonial Revival style and tiled
roof vigas, which recall the motifs of the Spanish Mission style.
The main facade is symmetrically composed; the use of a
random fieldstone veneer creates an immediate impression of strength and
security. Squat corner towers, with buttress supports, frame the elevation.
Each tower is veneered in random fieldstone and brick and rises to a
pedimented roofline parapet. A tiled roof viga, with bracket supports, runs
between the towers and shelters the five bay second story openings. These
round arched openings contain paired vertical
casement windows which are set beneath a
fanlight. The relieving arch is composed of randomly placed fieldstone.
Bold round arches distinguish the engine bays and flank either side of a
central round arched
transom. The multi-paneled single doors, within the engine bays, slide
vertically and are believed to be original. Random fieldstone covers the
projecting first story; relieving arches display cut and dressed fieldstone
blocks. A smaller tiled viga, with underside brackets, carries across the
While the main facade is handsomely detailed, side and rear elevations
are more simply executed. Both the sides and rear are veneered in varying
hues of red brick arranged in stretcher bond. Openings are surmounted by a
soldier course lintel; windows display a projecting sill composed of
brick headers. Both side elevations are similarly executed. Along the linear
five bay wall, first story windows are paired; on the second story, two
single lights, grouped together and separated by a narrow band of the brick
wall surface, are placed above the first story openings.
Six/one sash are the primary glazing material. Openings are set within
molded surrounds. Aluminum storm windows have been placed over the original
window lights. On each side, the flat wall surface carries forward to the
projecting mass of the corner tower. To further distinguish the side of each
tower, its wall surface is faced in random fieldstone and brick. Fieldstone
lintels surmount the first and second story openings. The main pedestrian
entrance to the fire station is located in the base of the west tower. The
rear elevation is randomly arranged. Three entrance doors are contained
within the first story; two window openings, of unequal height, are placed
in the second floor.
The interior is largely unaltered; while designed to be functional in
nature, the structure also conveys a very human scale. Detailing is minimal.
Walls are plastered. Concrete covers the first story floor surface. The
ceiling height in several rooms has been lowered and covered with celotex
panels. Window openings, except where otherwise noted, are framed by molded
surrounds and display projecting sills.
The engine bays lead into the engine house, the largest of the building's
interior spaces. Round cast iron piers run down the length of the chamber
and rise to plastered ceiling piers, which carry across the width of the
room. Two brass fire poles are located at the front and rear of the engine
house. A handsome
stair is placed within the west tower; the closed string, three
tread stair, the primary access to the second floor, features
newel posts and
balusters which support a shaped
handrail. An elegant semi-circular landing lends a sense of decoration
to the otherwise functional space. The stair wall and string are faced in a
vertical tongue and groove ceiling. A narrow lavatory is set within the east
A rectangular-shaped office projects from the rear wall of the engine
house; its openings are set within plain surrounds. Both the inner and outer
wall surfaces are encircled by a tongue and groove wainscot which is set
between a molded baseboard and a molded chair rail. The remaining wall
surface is dominated by sliding glass windows. Smaller rooms are located at
the rear of the main floor. Each room is rectangular-shaped and is similarly
sized and detailed. The single entrance doors, between the engine house and
these rear chambers, are each framed by a molded surround and set beneath a
six light vertical-placed transom. A narrow rear entrance hall separates the
two rear chambers. A closed string half-turn stair with winders provides a
secondary access to the second floor; plain balusters support the shaped
handrail. An enclosed quarter-turn stair, of wood construction, leads to the
unfinished basement. The two-room basement occupies the rear one-fourth of
the structure. The exposed brick walls are arranged in a 1:5 pattern of
common bond. Interior openings rise to a
segmental arch. Two rectangular casement windows, one on each side wall,
provide a minimal amount of exterior light. Architect Hook's ingenuity is
evident even in the most unlikely of places; at the top of the basement
stairs, the concrete floor has been contoured to allow for the opening and
closing of the door which leads to the basement stairwell.
The second floor contains a recreation room at the front, a larger
dormitory in the middle and kitchen and bathroom facilities at the rear.
Plain surrounds frame door openings; on each door, eight light glass panels
are placed above paired rectangular wood panels. The two door openings into
the recreation room each display a horizontally-placed six light transom. On
the front wall of the recreation room. the round arched openings have no
surrounds but display plain sills. A molded baseboard encircles the room; a
molded chair rail carries across the rear and down the rear half of the east
and west sides. The dormitory retains its original ceiling height and is
enclosed by a molded baseboard and chair rail. The narrow rear stair hall
separates the kitchen and bath, both of which have been modernized.
Fire Station #6 is recessed from the street and is surrounded by simply
landscaped grounds. Handsome cast iron street lamps delineate the entrance
to the property. A fieldstone well lies to the east of the building. A steel
hose tower stands immediately adjacent to the rear entrances.
Fire Station #6 is a notable monument to a simpler time. More
importantly, it is an excellent example of a public building which is able
to maintain its historic and architectural character while continuing to be
of service to the community.
1 Rebecca Zurier, The American Firehouse, An Architectural
and Social History, New York; Abbeville Press, 1982), pages 131 and 138.
2 Dr. William Huffman, A Historical Sketch of the Charlotte
Fire Station #6, prepared for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties
Commission, August, 1985, p. 2.
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