With 100 years and counting of history, spanning generations of Heights residents and countless Houstonians who have passed through its doors, the Houston Heights Fire Station’s centennial will be a celebration of the community’s past, present and future.
The 100th birthday party for the Houston Heights Fire Station, located at 12th St. and Yale St., will include two bands, Mayor Parker, several speakers and birthday cake with a free event beginning at 2 p.m. on March 8. All are invited to commemorate the building’s role in Heights’ history, which was once called the “heartbeat of the Heights.”
“When the fire station was completed in 1915, it was the center of the Heights’ civic activity,” said Mark R. Williamson, President of the Houston Heights Association (HHA), the civic group acting as care-takers for the old building. There were five full-time firefighters at the station in 1915 and the station also housed the Heights City Council chambers, judges chambers, offices and even jail cell. Lockers belonging to the firefighters still remain along with one of two original fire poles.
“When we were doing restoration we even unearthed the original brick from the floors of the stable for the horses that pulled the fire equipment,” Willamson said.That was a surprise to everyone. Those bricks are now in one of the courtyards.”
When the fire station was constructed, it cost about $20,000. In 1918 the city of Houston annexed the Heights and the station went with it. From 1918 until 1995, the building functioned as Houston Fire Station No. 14 and housed the city of Houston’s fire equipment as well as HFD firemen and women.
“In 1995, the Houston Heights Association was able to secure a 30-year lease on the fire station from the city of Houston,” said Williamson. “The property was already designated a historical structure, so there were strings attached to the lease. Among them was the requirement that we maintain it for continued use to the community.”
This was a task easier said than done. The station was in dire need of repair and restoration. In 1996, the HHA completed a $100,000 renovation including the installation of a catering kitchen, chair lift and repair of the original tin ceilings. However, they did not stop at that.
“In 2009, the city of Houston was strapped for cash and selling some of its assets,” Williamson said. “The Houston Heights Association was then able to purchase the fire station for something like $360,000 from the city of Houston. Our next step was to fully repair and restore the building.”
The association completed renovations on the station’s exterior by re-grouting and replacing broken brick, and repairing the first floor in 2012 ,including the single jail cell. They tackled the second floor in 2013 and, in 2014, landscaping improvements were completed.
All of the expenses faced in this restoration were generated by fund-raising events held by the HHA. It is part of the agency’s fabric, as made clear in its mission statement. It says that the organization is “to serve as a constructive force to promote, foster, encourage, and sponsor the rehabilitation and restoration of historically significant homes and buildings and to promote Houston Heights as the best and most livable historic neighborhood in the Houston metropolitan area.”
Today, the Houston Heights Fire Station serves as a meeting spot for local civic and business associations, clubs, parties and holiday celebrations. Additionally, the 7,000-square-foot structure has become one of Houston’s most treasured locations for weddings and receptions. While the horses are long gone, the Houston Heights Fire Station continues its role of serving the Heights community.