Fire Station No. 2
1212 South Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina
The preservation of the Old Dilworth Fire Station provides future
generations a unique vision of the past. Completed in 1909, the structure is
characterized by its original design for horse-drawn firefighting apparatus.
It stands today a monument to that forgotten era. The City of Charlotte
operated several other stations at that time, but they have all been
demolished. The Old Dilworth Station is now the oldest extant station in the
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Charlotte was a fast-growing
city. City government was supported by a mayor, a recorder, and a Board of
Aldermen. The Board of Aldermen included seven members, one from each of the
four wards of the city, and three elected at large. According to the Federal
Census of 1900, the city's population within its corporate limits was
18,091.1 The municipal census of 1901 indicates 27,752 people
living in the city and its surrounding suburbs.2 The city fathers
were building and expanding the foundations of services necessary to support
its growing population.
By the year 1902 the city owned the city hall, the water works, a
sewerage system, a crematory, three school buildings, two fire departments,
a modern fire alarm system, and over forty miles of macadamized roads.3
The street car system and lighting plants were excellent. Latta Park, at the
southern end of the street car line, was a "popular pleasure resort."4
Latta Park was located outside the city limits in an area known as
Dilworth. The Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, the 4-Cs, owned
the land within this suburb. Edward Dilworth Latta, for whom the development
was named, was President of the 4Cs. In 1891 the 4Cs launched a campaign to
attract industry as well as private residents to settle in Dilworth. At an
April meeting of the Chamber of Commerce "it was decided to raise $10,000
for advertising our city abroad. The 4Cs agreed to contribute $5,000 to that
end . . .".5
On May 20, 1891, the 4Cs held a large land auction in Dilworth. It was a
gala affair with a festival atmosphere. "In three days several hundred lots
were sold ranging from $5 to $16 a front foot. The bidding was lively and
the 4Cs have every reason to be gratified at the result of their sale."6
One of the lots sold that week was to be the future location of the Dilworth
"Lot number four in square number 9 . . . being fifty feet by one hundred
fifty feet fronting on the street known as 'Boulevard' . . ." was purchased
by James M. Oates on May 23, 1891.7 According to early real
estate maps of Charlotte, James Oates owned several lots in downtown
Charlotte and probably was a local real estate speculator. He paid the 4Cs
$375 for lot number four. Oates held the property for 16 years until it was
purchased by the City of Charlotte as the location for its new fire station
to serve the fast-growing street car suburb of Dilworth.8
The growing population in Dilworth, both residential and industrial,
began to show concern over the lack of a conveniently located fire station.
Before the new station was constructed, Dilworth residents received fire
protection from the downtown station headquartered at 6 East 5th Street.
Even when a fire was detected in its early stages, horse-drawn apparatus was
slow in reaching a fire in the prosperous suburb. Residents were aware that
precious minutes during a fire crisis could be saved if a station were
located in their neighborhood.
Yet, before a station could be built in Dilworth, the suburb had to be
designated an official borough of the City of Charlotte. The great desire of
Dilworth residents for local fire protection was their main concern when a
committee from the suburb appeared before the Board of Aldermen on May 7,
1907 asking that a fire station be constructed in the southern section of
the city and that Dilworth be admitted as a borough of Charlotte. That
evening Dilworth was admitted as a borough of Charlotte.9 The
request concerning the establishment of a fire station was deferred. 10
Nearly nine months passed before the issue of a fire station for Dilworth
was renewed. The concern was ". . . agitated anew since a recent fire in
that ward." 11 At a meeting of the Finance Committee on February
27, 1908, Colonel T. L. Kirkpatrick, Alderman from Dilworth, requested an
appropriation for the establishment of a station. Still, funds for such a
project were not available, and the committee could only give assurances
that efforts were being made to raise money needed for such a project.
Several days later, on March 2, 1908, the matter was again discussed at a
meeting of the Board of Aldermen. At this meeting a resident of Dilworth,
Mr. Joseph Garibaldi, offered to purchase a lot and build a station if the
city was not financially able to undertake the project. He offered to ". . .
accept the cities note for 4 or 6 years at 6% interest for same." 13
The Chairman of the Fire Department, Colonel A. L. Smith, agreed at that
meeting that ". . . a station in Dilworth was a necessity . . . but owing to
the financial condition of the city he would not press the matter."14
He suggested that the city might instead consider purchasing an automobile
that might provide more efficient service to that part of the city. The
matter of establishing a fire station in Dilworth ". . . was referred to the
Finance Committee with power to act."15
Seven months later at a meeting of the Finance Committee, a committee
from the Public Safety Committee reported that several locations for a
Dilworth Station had been examined. "Col. T. L. Kirkpatrick moved that it be
recorded that it is the sense of the committee that a sub fire station be
established in a convenient point for the purpose of serving the Dilworth
section and Ward II at a cost not exceeding $4,000.''l6 Ten days
later, on October 17, 1908, the Finance Committee unanimously authorized the
purchase of the lot owned by James M. Dates on the west side of South
Boulevard. The purchase price was $1,000, and the deed to the property was
signed October 20, 1908.
Finally, residents of Dilworth would get their new station. The wheels of
bureaucracy turn slowly, but Dilworth would not be deprived of its right to
efficient city services. Three branches of city government were responsible
for the creation of the Dilworth Station. The aldermen authorized and paid
for it. The Board of Public Safety was responsible for the equipment, and
the Board of Public Service would build it.17 Chosen as architect
for the project was the Charlotte firm of Wheeler, Galliher and Stern.18
The building contract was awarded to J. A. Jones at a cost of $3,000.19
The construction of the station began on January 7, 1909.20
According to a local newspaper article, the Dilworth Station was the same
size and design as Station No. 1, headquarters on E. 5th Street.21
Two months later Chief of the fire department, W. S. Orr, reported to the
Board of Public Safety that the station was "completed and equipped."
22 Applications were received from 25 men for positions in the new
fire station. Five were chosen: J. E. Morris, Cliff Spense, J. A. Lawing, T.
M. Davis, and G. P. Caldwell. These men were not assigned to the Dilworth
Station in particular. Chief Orr would fill some of the openings at the
Dilworth Station with experienced men from other stations. The new station
would have three men on duty at all times.23 W. B. Glenn, who was
already employed by the city fire department, was chosen captain for the new
station. equipment for the station would consist of a combination hose and
chemical wagon with two ladders attached and a steamer.25 Two
horses were also purchased for the station.26
Most of Charlotte's early firefighting was accomplished with chemical
engines. Developed by French scientists in 1864, mixtures of bicarbonate of
soda, sulfuric acid and water created a pressurized gas, carbon dioxide.
Being heavier than air, the chemical solution removed oxygen from air thus
smothering a fire.27 Eighty-five percent of the fires in
Charlotte were fought with chemicals in the early 20th century.28
At first these engines were pulled by hand, but in the 1870s, horse-drawn
chemical engines were introduced.29 The Dilworth station was
equipped with two horse-drawn engines, one chemical and one steam.
When horses were first used in firefighting, it was customary to board
them outside the fire stations in nearby stables.30 But much time
was lost bringing the horses to the station for harnessing after an alarm
was received. Eventually, the horses were stabled in the fire station along
with the equipment and the men. The idea took some getting used to, but soon
firemen and horses began "more than half a century of mutual affection.31
Dilworth's station was originally designed to house its horses on its
first floor level. Architectural specifications indicate there were two
stalls, one located on each side of the first floor. The stalls are no
longer there, but worn flooring bears witness to the years of impatient
pawing of horses hoofs. To save time in harnessing the horses after an alarm
was received, the heavy harnesses were hung from the ceiling directly above
the stalls. Using a system of chains and pulleys the harness could be
dropped onto the horse and fastened by the men in a matter of seconds.32
Remnants of the "quick hitch" system can still be seen in the old station.
In 1912 the City of Charlotte purchased its first motorized firefighting
apparatus.33 By 1917 the era of horse-drawn apparatus ended in
Charlotte. By the late 1940s the Dilworth station could no longer
accommodate the larger, more sophisticated motorized equipment. The city
purchased a lot across the Boulevard from the old station and built a new
one. The new Station No. 2 still serves the Dilworth section today. The old
station on lot number four was sold to W. E. Price and Ethel R. DeLaney on
June 29, 1948.34
Price and DeLaney held the property until January 1976. At that time the
station was deeded to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Museum, Inc., a
non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the
old Dilworth Station No. 2. It is their desire that the station be
adaptively utilized as a museum of firefighting history of Charlotte and
Nothing will more graphically demonstrate Charlotte's early firefighting
history than the preservation and restoration of the Old Dilworth Station.
While the City of Charlotte has destroyed, lost, and forgotten much of its
past, the Old Dilworth Station has survived. Its preservation will provide
the citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County a unique understanding of
turn-of-the-century life in Charlotte.
CHAIN OF TITLE
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Museum, Inc.
Chartered: November 3, 1976
Charlotte, North Carolina
Chain of Title:
1. Deed Book 78, Page 464 (May 23, 1891)
Grantor: Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company
E. D. Latta, President
Grantee: James M. Oates
Description of Property:
Lot #4, Square 9, near the City of Charlotte 50 feet by 150 feet fronting on
the "Boulevard" in Dilworth and an alleyway 10 feet wide extending across
the rear end of each lot in said Square.
Purchase Price: $375
2. Deed Book 242, Page 422 (October 20, 1908)
Grantor: James M. Oates and wife Nora Oates
Grantee: The City of Charlotte
Purchase Price: $1,000
3. Deed Book 1125, Page 126 (July 7, 1948)
Grantor: The City of Charlotte
Grantee: W. E. Price and wife Ethel R. Delaney
Purchase Price: $30,000
4. Deed Book 2900, Page 584 ( January 30, 1976)
Grantor: W. E. Price and Ethel R. Delaney
Grantee: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Museum, Inc.
1D. A. Tompkins, History of Mecklenburg County and
Charlotte, 2 vols. (Observer Printing House: Charlotte, N. C., 1903), p.
3Ibid., p. 185.
4Ibid., p. 187.
5Mecklenburg Times, 24 April 1891, p. 5.
6Ibid., 29 May 1891, p. 5.
7State of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County, Record of Deeds,
Deed Book 78, 23 May 1891, p. 464. (Hereinafter cited as Deeds.)
8Ibid., Deed Book 242, 20 October 1908, p. 422.
9Minutes of Meetings of Board of Aldermen, Charlotte, NC 7 May
1907, p. 32. (Hereinafter cited as Aldermen Minutes.)
11Charlotte Daily Observer, 28 February 1908, p. 6.
13Aldermen Minutes, Book 11, 2 March 1908, p. 79.
16Minutes of the Meetings of the Finance Committee of the
Board of Aldermen, 7 October 1908, p. 19.
17Charlotte Daily Observer, 19 October 1908, p. 7.
18Information obtained from original copy of the architectural
specifications of the structure on file in the office of Jack 0. Boyte,
Architect for the restoration project.
19Charlotte Daily Observer, 9 December 1908, p. 5.
20Charlotte Daily Observer, 7 January 1909, p. 5.
21Charlotte Evening Chronicle, 26 February 1908, p. 5.
22Minutes of the Board of Public Safety, 31 March 1909, p. 57.
23Charlotte Daily Observer, 5 February 1909, p. 7.
24Charlotte, North Carolina, City Directory, 1909, p. 85.
25Charlotte Daily Observer, 9 March 1909, p. 4.
26Minutes of the Board of Public Safety, 31 March 1909, p. 57.
27Paul C. Ditzel, Fire Engines Firefighters, (A
Rutledge Book, Crown Publishers, Inc.: New York, N. Y., 1976), p. 152.
(Hereinafter cited as Ditzel, Firefighters.)
28Examination of Daily Logs of the Charlotte Fire Department
located in the Headquarters Office of the Charlotte Fire Department.
29Ditzel, Firefighters, p. 152.
30Ibid., p. 127
33Information received from Chief Jesse Atkins of the
Charlotte Fire Department, 22
34Deeds Book 1125, p. 126.
Index to City Minutes. A to M. From June 24, 1816 to May 6, 1935. City
Clerk's Office, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Minutes of the Meetings of the Board of Aldermen. Books 10 and 11, 1907-
1908. City Clerk's Office, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Minutes of the Meetings of the Finance Committee of the Board of
Aldermen. City Clerk's Office, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Minutes of the Board of Public Safety. May 1, 1908 - April 6, 1909. City
Clerk's Office, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Minute Book - Executive Board. City of Charlotte. May 6, 1909 - February
12, 1913. City Clerk's Office, Charlotte, North Carolina.
State of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County Record of Deeds. Office of
the Register of Deeds, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Daily Logs of the Charlotte Fire Department. 1891-1909. Charlotte Fire
Department, Headquarters Office, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Charlotte, North Carolina, City Directory. 1904-5 through 1911.
Charleston, South Carolina: The Welsh Directory Company.
Charlotte Daily Observer. 1907 - 1909. Charlotte Public Library,
Carolina Room, Microfilm.
Charlotte Evening Chronicle. 1907 - 1909. Charlotte Public
Library, Carolina Room, Microfilm.
Mecklenburg Times. 1907 - 1909. Charlotte Public Library, Carolina
Original architectural specifications of the Dilworth Fire Station.
Office of Jack O. Boyte, AIA, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sanborn Insurance Maps. 1905-1909. Charlotte Public Library, Carolina
Tompkins, D. A. History of Mecklenburg County and Charlotte.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Observer Printing House, 1903.
Atkins, Jesse, Chief of Charlotte Fire Department. Interview 22 January
Ditzel, Paul C. Fire Engines Firefighters. New York, N.Y.: A
Rutledge Book, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1976.