Restoration proposed for 1931 Port Angeles fire hall
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Chris Moore, executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, holds a camera as Jennifer Mortensen, the organizationís communicationís director removes a microphone from former Port Angeles Mayor Gary Braun after taping a Braunís recollections of the former Port Angeles Fire Hall. ó Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The former fire hall on Lincoln Street was “the pride of Port Angeles” and remains “too precious to lose,” City Councilwoman Cherie Kidd told state historic preservation officials Thursday.

Despite obvious wear and tear throughout the 1931 structure, Kidd and other city officials said the art deco building at 215 S. Lincoln St., is worth preserving for future generations.

“We have to save it,” Kidd told Chris Moore, executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, in a filmed interview inside the 6,238-square-foot building.

“Whatever we do, it has to maintain the historic ambiance, and it has to maintain the sense that you’re walking back in time and enjoying the building as it was. We want to restore it, recreate it and reuse it.”

Moore and agency communications coordinator Jennifer Mortensen were on hand for the interviews and to see the city-owned building, which has been nominated by the trust for inclusion on its Most Endangered Historic Properties List.

The list will be announced at a May 6 reception in Wenatchee.

“It’s just really an opportunity, we feel, to raise awareness about historic properties across the state that are facing some sort of challenge or another,” Moore said of the 22-year-old most endangered program.

“With those properties that do make the list, we work with all stakeholders involved, whether it’s technical assistance, providing support for advocacy campaigns or trying to help identify grant sources. That’s what we endeavor to do.

“But really, it’s just a way to also raise awareness,” he added.

City officials said the main challenge for the Depression-era fire hall is funding.

A recent study by the city and Clallam County showed a complete restoration of the building would cost about $2.2 million.

Initial improvements to stabilize and weatherproof the structure were estimated at $230,000.

“It needs a new roof, immediately,” Kidd said.

“We want to restore it and bring it up to the new standards. That’s our challenge.”

The old fire hall sits prominently in the heart of the Port Angeles Civic Historic District, which includes Veterans Memorial Park, the 1918 Museum at the Carnegie and the 100-year-old Clallam County Courthouse.

Kidd told Moore that the 83-year-old fire hall was the “true civic center of Port Angeles.”

It served as a consolidated fire hall, city hall, police department and jail.

“Everyone came here,” Kidd said.

“You came here to pay your light bill. You came here to your city council meeting. If uncle Joe drank too much on Saturday night, he went around back (to the jail). The kids had to come here to get their bicycle licensed for 25 cents.”

Former Port Angeles Mayor Gary Braun recalled riding his bicycle past the fire hall as a youth.

“The building has a lot of significance for the city of Port Angeles,” said Braun, who served on the City Council for 16 years.

“It’s an icon, really.”

Because of its proximity to the county courthouse, Braun said the building could be used as office space for attorneys.

Moore also interviewed Port Angeles Downtown Association Executive Director Barb Frederick and Port Angeles Fire Chief Ken Dubuc.

After its use as a consolidated civic center, the building served as a dance hall, senior center, bakery, delicatessen and restaurant.

Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty, who helped Kidd establish the civic historic district, has pitched the idea of turning the old fire hall into a veterans center.

Last summer, Port Angeles resident Jean Rickerson made an offer to purchase the building for $5 and work with investors to fund its restoration.

The offer was withdrawn last fall.

Kidd said the building would be a good home for a nonprofit group.

“We must not lose this building,” Kidd said.

“We have to repair it and we have to keep it, because once it’s lost, it is irreplaceable.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 27. 2014 7:02PM
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