Description of Historic Place
Built in 1919, the Central Fire Hall is a red brick structure located at 30 Hellems Avenue, at the northeast corner of Division Street, in Welland.
The property is designated by the City of Welland under By-law No. 10045.
The fire hall has served the community of Welland for decades, with its firefighting units providing emergency response to locals in need. Its function as a base for fire services, continuing into the present day, makes the Central Fire Hall a local landmark. In 1962 the 70 foot tall tower sustained fire damage and was later rebuilt using the old brick.
The Central Fire Hall was built in 1919 (completed in 1920), and is valued for its association with Walter W. LaChance, the building's architect. Born in Brockville, Ontario and educated in Ohio, LaChance designed many of his structures in Hamilton and Saskatoon, the latter being home to the greatest number of his designs. Residing in Welland for less than two years, LaChance left his mark in the City with the Central Fire Hall; the only other known building, in Welland, attributed to him was the Empire Cotton Mill's office. The fire hall was built by Gardner Construction Company, of Welland. The company was started in Welland, in 1912, by John Henry Gardner. The company constructed a large number of buildings and other structures across the peninsula, including all of the buildings for the Peace Bridge.
Constructed in the Edwardian Classical style, the Central Fire Hall exhibits a wide array of distinct architectural features. While still maintaining the striking elements of red brick fire stations of the 1800's, the hall features an unusual basilica plan, which was built on a 45 degree angle, across the property, with a hexagonal apse at either end. The fire hall showcases a high brick drying tower fitted with a four faced clock complimenting its other architectural features. The Edwardian Classical Revival style is evident in several of the building's stylized elements, including the first floor ornamental stone blocks, the high stone base, the second floor's slight projections, and the wide keystone and two flanking stone voussoirs, which highlight the round headed windows on the third storey. A Greek acroterion, resembling an old fashioned fire helmet, is evident above each of the four dormers, adding to the fire hall's distinct character. The mixture of brick and stone trim adds to the building's visual appeal, and other impressive features include the parapet gables of the central block, the overhanging roof eave, and the large sash windows and the doors with rectangular transoms. The interior displays beautiful twin oak staircases and two brass fire poles with their original security gates. Portions of the original tin ceiling are evident in places, and hardwood flooring on the second floor adds to the splendour of the interior.
Sources: “Central Fire Hall”, Nora Reid, Welland LACAC, 1992; Report on the Designation on the Central Fire Hall, Division Street and Hellems Avenue, LACAC Report, City of Welland, 1993; “Central Fire Hall”, Heritage Welland Committee, 2006; The City of Welland under By-law No. 10045.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Central Fire Hall include its:
- continued use as a base for fire and emergency services
- location in central Welland
- siting at a 45 degree angle on the site
- unusual basilica plan with a hexagonal apse at either end
- ornamentation of stone blocks
- Greek acroterion resembling an old fashioned fire helmet above each of the four dormers
- high stone base
- clock tower
- wide keystone and flanking stone voussoirs highlighting the round headed third storey windows
- mixture of brick and stone trim
- parapet gables of the central block
- large sash windows
- doors with rectangular transoms
- twin oak staircases
- two brass fire poles with original security gates
- hardwood flooring