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Charlotte Fire Station Number 4

Architectural Description

 

 

 

Charlotte Fire Station Number 4 is a flat-roofed, three-bay-wide, two-story brick building set back less than twenty-five feet from West Fifth Street in Charlotte's Fourth Ward.  The building is located near the intersection of Graham and Fifth Streets and faces south on a half-acre lot that slopes to the rear.  The building is now bordered by empty lots.  Until recently the neighboring building to the east was a ca. 1927 one-story, brick car dealership.  New high-rise construction dominates the neighborhood to the south and to the east.  To the west and to the rear of the fire station there is a good collection of one, two, and three-story commercial buildings that extend north along Graham Street.  The fire station has retained a high degree of integrity and is in good condition.

 

The building is fronted by a concrete apron that is integrated into the neighboring sidewalk and features a single curb-cut.  The facade is symmetrical with three large doors designed to accommodate fire engines.  At ground level the brickwork of the fašade is buttressed by large curved concrete blocks.  These blocks served to protect the load-bearing walls and piers from damage that could have been caused by the fire engines.  

 

 

The rusticated bricks on the exterior of the building are laid in a veneer of running bond over thick solid brick wall laid in a six-to-one American Bond. 

 

The exposed brickwork in the interior of the building demonstrates the six-to-one American Bond pattern, with six rows of stretcher bricks laid between each row of locking header bricks

 

 

 

Original large folding wooden doors have been replaced by overhead doors.  Bolt-holes in the brickwork appear to show where the original hinges were located.  The doors openings are now filled with segmented, rolling overhead doors that date from the mid twentieth century.  The doors are constructed of oak, and are six segments tall, and each segment is composed of six panels.  The lower   two segments and the top segment in each door contains plywood panels, while the remaining segments are glazed.

 

 Detail of Overhead Door

 

Each door opening is bordered on the top by a course of soldier brick that conceal the steel lintels that support the wide door openings.  Each of the door openings is topped with a recessed rectangular brick panel highlighted with narrow vertical stone blocks set at each side of the panels.  The panels are bordered by vertical stone trim that is set into the brickwork and extends four courses of brick below the top of the door openings. This vertical stone trim protrudes slightly from the brickwork and each section of trim is composed of two narrow stone blocks, one set above the other.

 

Detail of facade shows trim, brickwork and steel lintels.

 

 

The second story is pierced by three large segmental-arched window openings that utilize projecting moulded stone band as a common sill.  Below each window unit and below the stone band is a course of soldier bricks that align with the panels and door openings below.  The wide window openings are divided into three window frames that originally held double-hung multi-light sash.  All of fire staiton's exterior windows have been replaced with large single units of insulated glass directly glazed into the frames.  

 

 

The windows are topped with one-and-one-half brick segmental arch, featuring a tall tapered keystone.  Above the center window opening is a stone panel with "C.D.F NO 4" painted in two-dimensional letters.   Plain round stone shields or medallions are set into the brickwork and are located above the other second-story window openings on the facade.  The facade appears to be topped with a low parapet wall decorated with a stone cap that is now partially obscured with metal.  

 

 

Facade Detail

West Elevation

 

The west elevation of the fire station is four bays deep and features tall segmental-arched window openings, all of which have been filled with fixed panels that resemble closed shutters.  The segmental arches are composed of a simple courses of soldier bricks, and the window sills are a simple row of corbelled bricks.  The second story is pierced with  eight shorter, equally spaced segmental-arched window openings.   The fourth window opening from the rear has been enlarged into a doorway and connects to a metal fire escape-type stairway.  The remainder of the windows on the second floor, like the front, are directly glazed with a single unit of insulated glass.  

 

The fire station's rear features a dramatically square-shouldered external chimney centered on the elevation.  A square brick flue is located near the east corner.  The rear is pierced by a segmental-arched doorway accessed by original concrete steps.  A narrow window opening is set low in the wall and may have given light to a basement mechanical room.  The second story contains two wide double window opening, each divided into two window frames.  Scuppers at the rear of the building allow for rainwater to drain off the roof into downspouts.

 

 

The east elevation features an original segmental-arched doorway adjacent to the facade.  The doorway contains a replacement door and large transom, now covered with a panel.  Other fenestration on the first story includes two tall windows, and two squat window openings adjacent to the rear of the building, that originally illuminated the watch room.   Second-story fenestration on the east elevation is composed of eight evenly spaced windows.  The parapet wall on the side elevations is topped with a stone cap, and steps down a single course of brick to the rear. 

From the Northwest Rear Elevation
Early 20th-Century Photograph East Elevation

The interior of the Charlotte Fire Station Number 4 has retained a high degree of integrity.  The first-story floor is poured concrete slab.  The building's exterior walls are exposed brick in the interior.  A high, poured-concrete "baseboard" runs along the perimeter of the slab floor.   in the first story, windows feature simple sloping and flush concrete stools.  The interior space in the first story is largely open and does not require posts or interior load-bearing walls.  A series of massive 24" deep steel I-beams  span the width of the building.  The ceiling and the beams are clad in plaster over metal lath.  A  new watch office has been constructed  on brick piers in the rear of the interior space.  The original watch office and captain's office remain and have been converted to a storage area.  Original features including doors, interior windows, beaded board walls, and wooden trim have survived in the watch office and captain's office.  A staircase at the rear of the building has been reconfigured below the the original midway landing. 

The upper story of the fire station features the original narrow-strip pine floor, plaster walls and ceilings.  The walls feature tall baseboards with moulded caps, and are topped with moulded crown trim.  Windows and surviving original door openings are surrounded with simple wooden trim.  Some new interior walls have been added to what was originally a large open space where the firefighters lived in a barracks-like room.

 The outlines of three original fire-pole holes are still visible in the second story

The dining room features a large fireplace

 Floor and skylight are original features of the bathroom

Some of the original rooms in second story of the fire station have survived in their original configuration.  The largest of the surviving original rooms is the dining room.  The dining room features large brick fireplace with a simple concrete hearth and wooden shelf.   A soldier-course of brick was added at some point to reduce the size of the fireplace opening.  An original bathroom feature a raised tile floor and a skylight.

In terms of Charlotte's built environment,  Charlotte Fire Station Number 4 is significant as one of several fire stations built in Charlotte before World War II in response to the growth of the city and the technical and professional development of firefighting.   Of the four surviving fire stations built during this period, the three-bay-wide Charlotte Fire Station Number 4 is the largest.  The size of the station reflects the historical commercial and residential density of the center city area.

 Station No.4  Station No. 5

 

 

Station No. 6 Station No. 7