Waverly Residents Want Their Old Firehouse Back

Engine 31 Needs Roof Repair, Upgrades, Asbestos Cleanup

July 08, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

North Baltimore residents are rallying to save a 107-year-old firehouse in Waverly that was closed last month when holes in the roof made the fire crew's living quarters uninhabitable.

The firefighters, paramedics and apparatus of Engine 31 have been moved to a newer fire station a half-mile away, but residents want their old station back.

"The firehouse is very important to the community," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represents the area. "It is a mainstay of Waverly. It will reopen."

The holes in the roof of the brown brick engine building have allowed rainwater and pigeon dung into the crews' quarters. There are other problems as well, including lead paint and asbestos, settlement cracks, aging windows and antiquated bathrooms.

"The pigeon poop was the last straw," Clarke said.

City officials say they are looking for a way to come up with the money to fix and reopen the Greenmount Avenue station.

"There is no question that Engine 31 is in dire need of repairs," said Chief Kevin Cartwright, the Fire Department spokesman. "Our budget has not afforded us the luxury of making the necessary improvements."

Members of the Waverly community will hold an open house July 18 at the closed-down firehouse to discuss the building's needs and to help fund a wish list of furnishings.

"Our firehouse is the anchor of Greenmount Avenue," said Joseph Stewart, an Avon Avenue resident and Better Waverly official. "It serves Oakenshawe, Abell, Charles Village and Pen Lucy as well as Waverly."

Clarke said there is $100,000 in the city's budget for repairs. She is also hopeful that the city could receive a $2 million federal grant, known as an Assistance to Firefighters/Fire Station Construction Grant, which would enable a thorough renovation of the building.

The Waverly activists have asked U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin to press for the federal funds.

Opened in 1902, the station was designed to accommodate fire horses and hay supplies. In those days, pumpers were pulled by horses and powered by steam. The building retains its tin ceiling, brass sliding poles and spiral staircase.

"We have a really interesting mix of the historic and the quirky in Waverly. Within any village, the firehouse is a central piece," said Bonnie Bessor, an East 31st Street resident.

Residents say the firehouse imparts a sense of safety along Greenmount Avenue in the heart of the Waverly shopping district.

"We still have some crime issues along Greenmount Avenue, and the presence of the firefighters around the building helps with safety overall," Bessor said.

"I see it as having a calming influence," said Quinn Gorman, another 31st Street resident. "It has a good effect on the entire street."

In the meantime, the firefighters have been transferred to a firehouse at 25th Street and Kirk Avenue.

"It's not too far away, but it's too far away for our satisfaction," Clarke said.

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