Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation unanimously voted Tuesday afternoon for Engine Company 14 to become a historical landmark for being the oldest operating fire station in the city, clearing the way for millions in state money to renovate the building.
The firehouse — which is more than 130 years old, and located on Hollins Street in the Boyd-Booth neighborhood — “is the oldest continuously operating firehouse in Baltimore City, and it is also one of the most active fire houses in the city,” said Lauren Schiszik, a historic preservation planner with the preservation commission.
“Engine Company 14 has protected people both from fires, but in more recent history during medical crises ... because departments serve the role as first responders. Members of this company have received commendations for their bravery during their responses, and some have been injured while trying to save lives,” Schiszik added.
Just a little under a year ago, the fire station housed two of the first responders — Lt. Kelsey Sadler and EMT firefighter Kenneth Lacayo — who died in January last year while fighting one of the city’s deadliest fires in the 200 block of South Stricker Street.
“I beg of you to please, renovate that building, modernize it,” Josephine Battaglia, 78, said during the public meeting. “Do what they need at all costs to keep that firehouse there. They are busy all day long, all night long.”
Originally built in 1888, the two-story brick building with rusticated brownstone windows received its first and most significant renovation in 1902 for “architectural rebranding” resulting in the building that stands today, according to the commission.
Battaglia, who lives about a block away from the fire house station and is president of Restivo Square Community Association, expressed concerned about the possibility of the fire station no longer serving the neighborhoods that surround it, which include the Restivo Square, Franklin Square and Union Square communities.
“Our boundaries lines overlap and it was insinuated that they might want to close the firehouse, and they can’t because our communities need it. They actually need more staff, more fire engines and they need to stop tearing down the houses around there,” Battaglia added.
The firehouse is slated to receive capital funds from the city in the next two fiscal years for improvements and repairs. Additionally, there’s $5 million in state funding allocated for the renovation after Tuesday’s landmark decision.
According to the Maryland Department of Planning website the state historic preservation office will review the project because the renovation will use state money, and its review can affect the outcome of the project.
Council member John T. Bullock, who represents the 9th District where the station is located, introduced the landmark designation bill for Engine 14 in August.
“The building is beautiful, both inside and outside. And obviously, it’s something that we recognize in our community as a hub and an anchor, and we’re happy to have this support for the preservation,” Bullock said.
In order for a building to be recognized by the city commission, it has to meet one of four criteria:
- Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of Baltimore history.
- Associated with the lives of persons significant in Baltimore’s past.
- Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.
- Have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in Baltimore prehistory or history.
The commission received letters of support for Engine 14′s landmark designation from a number of groups, including Baltimore Heritage Inc. African American Firefighters Historical Society, the Fire Museum of Maryland and a number of nearby community associations.
A proposal to consider landmark status for a former bookbindery in Hampden, a popular migration spot for chimney swifts, was postponed.