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The history of the Charlotte Fire Department dates as early as 1845, when the Board of Alderman approved repairs to the lone hand-drawn, hand-powered fire engine. By the turn of the century, the Queen City was protected with horse-drawn equipment, such as steam pumps and hose wagons. And by 1912, motorized apparatus was roaring down Charlotte's streets.
The history of the Charlotte Fire Department is
explored with visits to four old fire stations, three old training buildings, and a former maintenance shop.
Old Station 2
1212 South Boulevard
Built 1909 / Closed 1948
Presently office condominiums
Also known as the Dilworth fire station, the oldest extant engine house in Charlotte opened in early 1909 with three men, two horses, a combination chemical and hose wagon, and a steam engine. The 3,214-square-foot facility served the city's first suburban area, the "street car suburb" of Dilworth.
At that time, two years had passed since Charlotte's last volunteer fire company disbanded. Though fully paid firemen had been answering calls since 1887, the department retained on-call personnel. The Neptune Fire Company ceased operation in 1907.
Other early twentieth-century developments in the history of the Charlotte Fire Department included the delivery of the first motorized fire engine in 1912, the retiring of horse-drawn apparatus in 1917, and the introduction of a two-platoon shift system in 1919.
By 1929, the Charlotte Fire Department had six stations and 117 firefighters operating three American LaFrance 1,000-GPM pumpers, three American LaFrance 750-GPM pumpers, one Seagrave 750-GPM pumper, one American LaFrance 75-foot aerial ladder, three American LaFrance city service trucks, and one American LaFrance 500-GPM pumper in reserve.
Old Station 2
1215 South Boulevard
Built 1948 / Closed 1982
Presently houses Arson Task Force
By the 1940s, the Dilworth fire station was too small to accommodate the era's increasingly larger fire engines. A three-bay, two-story replacement was constructed across the street at 1215 South Boulevard in 1948. The new, 6,497-square-foot station was twice the size of its predecessor.
In 1982, Station 2 was moved again, six blocks south to 1817 South Boulevard. Two years later, the former fire station was reacquired by the department and opened in December 1984 as headquarters for the newly formed Fire Investigation Task Force.
The Task Force is comprised of fire investigators from the Charlotte Fire Department, arson investigators from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, special agents from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Old Station 4
420 West 5th Street
Built 1925 / Closed 1972
Presently fire museum
In 1925, a new City Hall opened at 600 East Trade Street. Central Fire Station, housed in the old City Hall, moved to 125 South Davidson Street. The relocation moved the station six blocks east of the city center, so an additional engine house was opened on West 5th Street that year.
In 1972, Station 4 was relocated to 525 North Church Street in Fourth Ward. The old station was remodeled into office space.
In 1997, the building was remodeled into an
art gallery and antique shop. In 2001, the 5,360-square-foot facility was remodeled again as a fire museum. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Education Center and Museum opened in 2002.
Old Station 10
2136 Remount Road
Built 1957 / Closed 2005
On May 16, 1957, Station 10 was placed in service with firefighters relocated from the Morris Field fire station, which was closed at the time.
The single-story, two-bay brick building measured 7,766 square feet. The station also had a gated rear parking lot, common to Charlotte fire department facilities.
In January 2005, Station 10 was moved
three blocks west to 2810 Wilkinson Boulevard. The four-bay, 15,000-square-feet station cost $2.2 million and presently houses Engine 10, Rescue 10, and Battalion 3.
Old Maintenance Shop
618 West 28th Street
Built 1958 / Closed 1997
Presently fire department storage
In 1958, Central Station's "mechanical shop" was moved to a 6,538-square-foot facility at 618 West 28th Street. One year later, Station 11 opened next door at 620 West 28th Street.
After 85 years of servicing its own apparatus, the Charlotte Fire Department Maintenance Shop closed on May 1, 1997. The function was transferred the city's Business Support Services department, which contracts maintenance for all city vehicles.
Presently used for fire department storage, the building houses several pieces of apparatus slated for restoration.
Old Training Tower
2601 East 7th Street
Built 1938 / Closed 1977
First proposed by Fire Chief Hendrix Palmer in 1930, construction of a "drill school and practice tower" started in 1938. The first completed structure was a six-story training tower that firefighters helped build.
The training grounds were the site of the first recruit class in 1952, and a 20 by 20-foot smokehouse built in 1953. The smokehouse has since been demolished.
In 1977, the fire department's training facilities were moved to 1750 Shopton Road. The abandoned tower is presently surrounded by a nearly completed medical office condominium complex.
Palmer Fire School
2601 East 7th Street
Opened 1940 / Closed 1977
Presently known as Palmer Building
Also built with the help of firefighters, the Palmer Fire School was dedicated on May 13, 1940. The 10,400-square-foot "Fireman's Hall" served as both a training center and a clubhouse for firefighters.
After training facilities were moved to Shopton Road in 1977, the tower and school building were transferred to the Parks and Recreation department. Civic groups used the buildings for everything from wilderness training to rehearsal space for the Charlotte Shakespeare Company.
Recently purchased and restored by the Charlotte Fire Fighters Association, the renamed Palmer Building presently serves as a rental meeting hall.
Old Police/Fire Academy
1750 Shopton Road
Built 1977 / Closed 2002
Presently police facility
In September 1977, a joint police / fire academy opened at 1750 Shopton Road. The accompanying training grounds included a new drill tower and burn building.
In July 2002, the 26,506-square-foot building was replaced by a larger facility next door. The old building presently serves as a precinct headquarters and offices for the police department's HITS team.
Early Fire Stations
Historic Landmarks Commission
Three of Charlotte's early twentieth-century fire stations are still in operation. Station 5 at 224 Wesley Avenue opened in 1929.
The two-story station is located just north of
downtown. Station 6 (above) at 249 South Laurel Avenue also opened in 1929. Renovated in 1989, the
two-story structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Station 7 at 3210 North Davidson Street opened in 1935.
The two-story station was renovated in 1991.
Earlier stations since demolished include Central Station at 125 South Davidson Street.
Built in 1925, it was relocated to 221 North Myers
Street in 1990. The first Station 3 was
located in the 800 block of Louisiana Avenue. Built in 1917,
it was closed in 1928. The second Station 3
was built in 1928 at the corner of Belmont and Allen
Streets. The two-story structure was closed in 1974,
when Station 3 was relocated to 6512 Monroe Road.
Charlotte Fire Department
Charlotte Fire Fighters Association
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Public Library
Two books about the Charlotte Fire Department were published in 1988 and 1999. Search the Library Catalog for keywords "Charlotte Fire"
Mecklenburg County Real Estate Records
Old Dilworth Fire Station No. 2
The Palmer Building
Palmer Fire School
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps via NC LIVE
Requires password available from your local library. After logging into NC LIVE, click Browse Resources and select Maps
Rocky Mount / Wilson
A version of this article was published on FireNews.net on March 4, 2005.