Description of Historic Place
213 Second Street, known as Second Street Fire Hall, is situated on the east side of the block which also includes Cobourg's town hall (Victoria Hall) and the Old Market Building. The yellow brick fire hall, designed in the Second Empire style, has a partial tower and a mansard roof and was constructed between 1882 and 1883.
The exterior of the building and scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1986). The property is also designated by the Town of Cobourg under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 65-81). The building has been used as a performing arts theatre since its restoration in 1985-86.
Located south of the town hall (Victoria Hall) and east of the Old Market Building, the Second Street Fire Hall contributes to the civic quality of the municipally owned block in the town centre. The entire block where these buildings are situated is owned by the Town of Cobourg. This centralized location improved overall access to all parts of the town. The building was purposely set back from the street to allow room to service fire engines.
The Second Street Fire Hall is significant as the headquarters of Cobourg's fire department from 1883 to 1977. Completed in 1883 to house the No. 1 Fountain Hose Co. and the Hook and Ladder Co., the fire hall reflects Cobourg's high level of civic pride, in the late 19th century. The building's ground floor accommodated three fire engines with the upper storeys dedicated to brigade members' quarters and social rooms. During the 19th century, it was common for the younger men of the community to join the fire brigade. The fire hall functioned as a social club; this function accounts for the roomy upper storey accommodations. Once built, Second Street Fire Hall became the social centre for a large number of young Cobourg men, with about 60 members comprising its associated company, in addition to an unlimited number in the bucket brigade. Prior to 1888, when firefighting became centralized, with the establishment of the town's waterworks, there were several fire brigades and engine houses around Cobourg, though the Second Street Fire Hall was the main facility. A fire engine house has occupied this block from about the time that the first fire brigade was established in Cobourg in 1832.
The Second Street Fire Hall is significant for its period fire hall characteristics and its Second Empire design. Like other historic fire halls, the Second Street Fire Hall is distinguished by its tower, which had both an aesthetic and a practical function. Known as a hose tower, it was used for hanging the cotton fabric fire hoses to dry. The louvered opening and wooden construction aided this process. Due to structural problems, the tower was reduced in height in the mid 20th century. The tower, which also contributes monumentality to the structure, reflects stylistic practices popular in the Victorian era. Substantial quarters on the upper floors for the social activities of the brigade members recall the fire hall's early status as a social centre. Despite the conversion to theatre use, the three large double doors on the east elevation were retained. William Henderson, a Cobourg architect and contractor, who also designed the Cobourg Public School on Seminary (University) Street, in 1875, was responsible for the plans, and C. Carruthers of Port Hope was in charge of construction. As the most popular and widely sanctioned style for government and civic buildings in Canada at the time, Henderson chose to distinguish the fire hall with a mansard roof and other Second Empire style detailing. When employing the Second Empire style, architects frequently borrowed heavily from Italian Renaissance sources, in addition to the style's French origins. These influences are obvious in the fire hall's flat roofed, Tuscan style tower and ornamental cornice brackets.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Second Street Fire Hall include its:
- two-and-one-half-storey, rectangular plan, attached hose tower and mansard roof
- yellow-brick construction with stone window sills
- timber-frame construction and wooden drop siding on the upper portion of the hose tower
- louvered openings punctuating the upper portion of the tower
- three, large, fire engine doorways with large, four-paned transom lights
- segmental arched windows with two-over-two wooden sashes
- closed tongue-and-groove eaves with paired ornamental brackets
- dormer windows with arched roofs and wooden drop siding
- two, internal, yellow-brick chimneys with double shafts
- location in the same block with other civic buildings including the market building and the town hall (Victoria Hall)
- location on the functional side (south) of the civic block
- setback from Second Street and surrounding context of open space
- proximity to the centre of the town