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Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1

Edmonton

Other Names:
Old Strathcona Fire Hall
Walterdale Playhouse
Walterdale Theatre
Edmonton Fire Hall No. 6
Old Fire Hall No. 6

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1 is a two-storey red brick building situated on a single lot in Edmonton's historic Strathcona district. Built between 1909 and 1910, the fire hall features quoined round arches around the three sets of double vehicle doors, an attached brick bell tower, and a prominent classical cornice surmounted by a reconstructed, pedimented parapet featuring the words "FIRE HALL No 1".

Heritage Value
The heritage value of Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1 lies in its status as the oldest major fire hall in Alberta and one of the earliest extant public buildings in the Strathcona district. It also possesses heritage value as an excellent example of early twentieth-century fire hall construction and design.

In 1891, the Edmonton & Calgary Railway line arrived on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River and subdivided the township of South Edmonton. Situated at the end of the railway line, the new township grew rapidly. The Klondike Gold Rush further swelled the community's population and in 1899 the settlement was incorporated as the Town of Strathcona. The town's burgeoning population and the large number of wood-frame structures in the community necessitated the creation of fire-fighting facilities. In 1901, Strathcona built its first fire hall, a two-door, wood-frame structure manned by the Strathcona Volunteer Fire Brigade. Continued growth led to the incorporation of the City of Strathcona in 1907 and the need for a larger and better appointed fire hall. Construction on Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1 was initiated in 1909 and completed the following year. With the amalgamation of Strathcona and Edmonton in 1912, the station was renamed the Edmonton Fire Hall No. 6. It continued to function as a fire-fighting facility until 1954, when a new fire hall was constructed. For the next two decades, the fire hall was used as a storage facility. In 1974, the building became the home of the Walterdale Theatre Group. It has since served as an integral part of the lively theatre scene in Edmonton's Old Strathcona district - a hub for performing arts in western Canada.

Designed by local architectural firm Wilson and Herrald and built by contractor J. M. Eaton, Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1 is typical of fire hall facilities of the period. The building features three vehicle doors surrounded by quoined round arches, a classical cornice, and a prominent bell tower. At the time of its construction, the fire hall accommodated nine horses in its rear stable and three fire wagons. Its upper level featured a chief's office, general hall, bedrooms, band room, and a bathroom with a shower. Two fire poles connected the second storey to the ground floor. The fire hall is a stellar example of early twentieth-century fire hall construction and design and the oldest extant fire hall in Edmonton and Calgary. It is also a local landmark and a vital contributor to the historic ambience of Edmonton's justly renowned Old Strathcona area.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 209)



Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1 include such features as:
- mass, form, scale, and style;
- red brick facades and flat arches above the rectangular windows;
- initials of firefighters carved into brick front facade;
- dentillated upper level, sheet metal cornice supported by embellished brackets;
- cast stone elements, including quoins on corners of front facade, sills, keystones, stringcourse below upper level entablature, and quoined round arches surrounding three vehicle double doors;
- three vehicle double doors, including diagonal arrangement of wood in panels, placement of support beams, original hardware, and multi-panelled arched fanlights;
- fenestration pattern and style, including nine-over-nine double-hung windows in the bell tower,
- original single-hung sash windows;
- attached brick bell tower featuring stone decorative elements, octagonal brick cupola with masonry arches, and belfry topped by white domed octagonal roof;
- original, three-foot diameter bronze bell.



Location



Street Address: 10322 - 83 Avenue
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Lot 2, Block 79, Plan 3022HW
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
24
52
29
08

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
3022 HW
79
2


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.519315 -113.496350 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2007/09/13

Historical Information

Built: 1909 To 1910
Significant Date(s) 1910 To 1954
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Governing Canada : Security and Law
Historic Function(s): Government : Fire Station
Current Function(s): Leisure : Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Architect: Wilson and Herrald
Builder: J.M. Eaton
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

In 1901, a two-door fire hall was erected in Strathcona for the newly formed Strathcona Volunteer Fire Brigade. Considered too cold and unsanitary to live in, it was replaced by a new and larger fire hall constructed nearby. This second fire hall was begun in 1909 with Wilson and Herrald as the local architect. Due to a structural wall crack, it was not completed until 1910. This new No. 1 Strathcona Fire Hall was renamed Fire Hall No. 6 after amalgamation in 1912. Typical of fire hall architecture at that time, the building and bell-hose tower are made of brick with exterior stone quoin edging and concrete flooring (mostly covered in wood). The three main doors are decorated with radiating stone voussoirs. The exterior is almost completely original; the interior only partially so. This is now the oldest remaining fire hall in Edmonton and Calgary.

**********************************

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

When the Calgary & Edmonton (C & E) Railway arrived at the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River in 1891, the C & E immediately subdivided a town site which it named South Edmonton. Being at the end of steel, the community steadily grew throughout the decade until, in 1899, it was incorporated as the Town of Strathcona with a population exceeding 1,000. To serve this burgeoning community, which consisted primarily of wood frame buildings, it was obvious that some method of organized fire protection was needed. A volunteer fire brigade was organized in 1901, and, that same year, Town Council provided for the construction of a wood frame fire hall on Lot 2, Block 79, just one block north of main street, and near the Town Well. A horse drawn fire wagon was on hand with a wooden water tank.

As with Edmonton to the north, Strathcona grew rapidly in the wake of the Klondike gold rush, and, in 1907, it was incorporated as a city with an estimated population of 3,500. It was soon evident that the old fire hall was inadequate, and, so, provision was made for a newer and larger structure. As the City Waterworks was right next door to the old fire hall, it was felt appropriate to build the new structure at the same location. The firm of Wilson and Herrald was thus contracted to design, and the firm of J.M. Eaton contracted to build a modern two-storey red brick facility which could accommodate three fire wagons. The estimate for construction was $13,715. A stable in the rear was designed for nine horses, while a bell tower extended from the middle of the structure 77 feet in the air. The second floor was made to accommodate a chief's office, a general hall, bedrooms, a band room, and a bathroom with showers. Two fire poles facilitated instant access to the ground floor.

The Strathcona Fire Hall with its horse-drawn wagons served the City of Strathcona until its amalgamation with Edmonton in 1912. It was then designated as Edmonton Fire Hall No. 6, and became part of the Edmonton Fire Department, with a permanent salaried chief, with the number of salaries firefighters growing over the passage of time. The crew was always supplemented by volunteers in times of emergency. In 1954, however, the facility was considered dilapidated and outdated, and, so, a new fire hall was constructed nearby. The old structure was, apparently slated for demolition, but was considered adequate for storage, and, so, it was leased to Strathcona Furniture, which used it as a warehouse.

By the early 1970's, there was a growing appreciation in Edmonton about the early buildings of Strathcona, and, so, when the Walterdale Theatre began to plan for a new home, thoughts turned to the old fire hall, which seemed to provide adequate space for a live theatre building. The Walterdale group moved into its internally renovated facility in 1974, and, in 1976, the structure was designated a Registered Historic Resource.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the Strathcona Fire Hall lies in its provision of structural evidence of fire fighting facilities in a large urban area in the early twentieth century in Alberta. It is the oldest major fire hall in Alberta. It is important too as one of the surviving early public buildings of the City of Strathcona, which tells of life in general in this community.

(D. Leonard, February 2006)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0681
Designation File: DES 0209
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 31715
Website Link: N/A
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 209)
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