Description of Historic Place
The historic place is the prominent and familiar two-storey, brick Kelowna Fire Hall located at 1616 Water Street, built in 1924 at the southwest corner of Water Street and Lawrence Avenue in Kelowna's Downtown area.
The Kelowna Fire Hall is a highly significant heritage resource, as a consequence of its lengthy and continuous role in protective service since the early years of community development, and for its landmark architectural quality, including having been designed by a distinguished and prolific, but poorly known, architect.
Frequent fires in the early years of Kelowna emphasized the need for effective fire-fighting services, just as they also encouraged the replacement of the original wood-frame structures on Bernard Avenue with those built of stone and brick in the first decade of the twentieth century.
The current Kelowna Fire Hall was constructed in 1924, replacing the first, wood, fire hall that had been erected on the present site in 1906. The new brick building had three truck bays and a tall hose tower. Living quarters upstairs were occupied by some of the bachelor volunteer firemen, who lived there rent-free in return for being quickly available.
The first fire engine, the 'Broderick', an 1850s-vintage hand-pumper, had been purchased (from Vernon) by Kelowna merchants in 1904. A regular Kelowna Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in 1909, with Max Jenkins as fire chief. The Brigade's first fire truck was bought in 1912, and in 1914 another, a converted Cadillac, was added. Its ladders were reportedly a little too long for the existing fire hall, and a hole was cut in the back wall to accommodate them.
The limitations of the first hall led to the construction of the present building. It too has required adaptation and expansion as the City has grown, in 1945 and again in 1950-51. The changes along Water Street are seen in an additional truck bay, with a larger door, at the left; and the enlargement of one of the three original doors by removing the transom window. The building was also extended along Bernard Avenue.
The handsome structure was the last building known to have been designed by architect Harold Joseph Rous Cullin, a native of England who came to BC in 1904 to work with Samuel Maclure, and who maintained a well-known practice in Victoria. The builders were Miller and Emslie, perhaps assisted (or with later additions) by Ward and Baldock. The fire hall displays Georgian Revival features, seen in the restrained classicism of the decorative features, such as the cornice, the corner pilasters, and the window details.
By 1962 the Brigade employed nine paid staff to supplement about thirty volunteers. As the city grew and firefighting became more technically demanding, the paid staff grew. The members of the Kelowna Volunteer Fire Brigade had other regular occupations. For example, James D. Pettigrew, one of the founding members in 1909 and Fire Chief from 1920 to 1945, was a jeweller and also served as Mayor of Kelowna in 1945 and 1946. Membership in the Brigade, while demanding, was also a kind of club for the young men of the town, and athletic and social activities focused around it. When not on call, firemen at the hall worked on social and charitable projects, such as making and repairing toys for Christmas gifts for needy children. Many members of the Brigade enlisted in the nation's service in both World Wars. The War Memorial at the Water Street and Lawrence Avenues corner of the site recognizes those who did not return.
In 1973 the headquarters of the Kelowna Volunteer Fire Brigade was moved to the new Enterprise Way Main Hall as the result of expansion of the city boundaries. Five years later the name of the service was changed to the Kelowna Fire Department, to reflect its professional nature. The Water Street Fire Hall continues as one of Kelowna's eight fire halls, serving the Downtown area. The community and the nation were reminded of the importance of Kelowna's Fire Department - and the value of this building - during the momentous battle to save the City from forest fires in the summer of 2003.
Source: City of Kelowna, Planning Department, File No. 6800-02
The character-defining elements of the Kelowna Fire Hall include:
- The Georgian Revival features, seen in the restrained classical details, such as the broad wood cornice and entablature, the pilasters at the corners of the original block, the surrounds of the three truck bays, and the 12-over-1 wood-sash, double-hung windows
- The red brick walls, with banded courses
- The tall parapet
- The overhead vehicle doors
- The tall corner hose tower with bellcast metal cupola and bell
- The later addition to the left on Water Street, with a simplified, sympathetic design
- The light-painted headers and sills on the second-floor windows and tower
- The prominent corner location
- The landmark quality, appropriate for a public building
- Brick paved and landscaped plaza on the Lawrence Avenue side
- The continuous use as a fire hall