Historic designation given to Central Fire Station

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Central Fire Station
(aka Downtown Fire Station No. 1)

Rear view

circa 1980
Central Fire Station*
Courtesy of Daniel Balboa

Last month, California's State Historical Resources Commission added Riverside's downtown Central Fire Station to the state's Register of Historic Resources. Entering its sixth decade of operation, plans are underway for a replacement fire station on the block directly behind the current station.

We've always had an eye for the building's simplistic, yet unique exterior, which is an excellent example of "form follows function" design. However, it wasn't until recent in-depth research in which our appreciation for the edifice was cemented.

Designed by local architect Bolton C. Moise, Jr., the structure came online in 1957 as a replacement for a station* located around the corner at Eighth (University) and Lemon streets. The layout of the new building incorporated the stacking of the dormitory quarters atop the ground-level offices -- while still maintaining immediate access to the engines -- thereby allowing for an adjacent, column-free engine bay* (a necessity for modern fire equipment). The new building also included modern fire communication equipment and updated living amenities.

During its early years, the station's design was heralded by city leaders and architects alike. But, as with many Mid-Century Modern buildings, the building has seen its share of indifference over the years as well.

Recently, the site has seen at least two mixed-use proposals, both of which included the demolition of the existing fire station. We're unsure as to the current status of the latest plan, which in light of current economic conditions, may have stalled.


* Photos courtesy of Daniel Balboa

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise


Wow. I read Tanya's article and saw her ideas on re-use. BRILLIANT! The idea to turn it into an extention of the Riverside Art Museum for modern/contemporary art is hands down the best idea I've heard. Make the quarters area up top a studio? That is smart. Honestly, I sided with tearing it down before. I believe the building is nice and to be the best display of Modernism in Downtown along with the library (Although I still don't care for the front of the library), but I've always felt that the fire station was built on the wrong street. Every other building with the exception of the library on Mission Inn Avenue feels like or is from the Spanish/Mission Revival/ Victorian era. The fire station just feels like it throws off the atmosphere. BUT, if it becomes a museum for modern art... "form follows function" is given a whole new meaning and purpose for the building. And it will fit in becuase it is a museum, and because it is art related. Problem/dilemma solved!

One of the original developer proposals that went to the City Council's development committee actually included the fire station as part of the project and used its architectural cues in design of a mixed use, multi-story retail/commercial building and parking garage. It was obviously more modern than the City's current fascination with Mission Revival but it incorporated the building into the project. Clearly too thoughtful for some at city hall today. Modern Riverside's ideas are FANTASTIC! What an incredible opportunity that building provides. I personally like the idea of a restaurant but a museum of modern art complex would be really fantastic. That would also require real fundraising from private sources like other world class entities do. Also, congratulations to Tanya for getting the historical designation nod from the State. Incredible...and if you ever want help???

(Pub: Dec. 29 2008)

Jason - Yes, Tanya has some brilliant -- and seemingly plausible -- ideas for potential adaptive re-use of the fire station. Is anyone with the city or the museums listening?

Rick - Thanks for the additional information. Though we're not against Mission Revival, as indeed, it plays an important part of the landscape that is Mission Inn Ave. It is also an indelible part of the city's past. But too much of a certain style can in fact bring a bland and homogenous look and feel (think Santa Barbara). And though in some circumstances there is something to be said for cohesive architectural styles, there's also something unique that "organic" architecture can bring to a city -- that is, of course, if it's allowed to develop (and remain).

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This page contains a single entry by RXSQ published on December 7, 2008 6:24 PM.

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