Much has been accomplished since we successfully obtained a $500,000 Legacy Grant from Canadian Heritage in the spring of 2021 to help restore Welland’s unique and historic Central Fire Station. With further grants from the City of Welland of $50,000 in both 2021 and 2022 along with your individual and corporate donations, we were able to stop the deterioration of this grand old building and begin to bring it back to life.
The first order of business in 2021 was to stop the leaks that were damaging the interior features by installing new flat roofs. Exterior woodwork and gutters were repaired and/or replaced as were some rotted panels in the big garage doors. As Central Station is a designated property under the Ontario Heritage Act these were done by heritage professionals from Willowbank School of Restoration Arts following recommended standards for restoration. The entire exterior of the building, including the clock tower, was painted, restoring its impressive face to the world.
Inside, the bottom of one of the solid oak staircases which had been damaged by the leaking roof was also restored to heritage standards.
A highlight of New Year, 2022, was seeing the Tower Clock once again fully operational and lit up at night after many years out of service. Once again we were grateful to the people with special skills – members of the Toronto Chapter 33 of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors Inc, who donated their services and worked along with a local electrician and jeweller to restore the workings and make operational this 100-year-old electrical impulse clock. It is interesting to note that this is not the original tower clock which was lost in a fire in the 1960’s but a replacement of the same vintage from a now demolished public building in Perth, Ontario.
2022 saw us turn our efforts to repairing and upgrading the interior of the building.
As the building sat unused from the time it was decommissioned as a working Fire Hall in 2006 until 2021 with its original furnace removed and pipes rotting, it was time to look at upgrading the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems.
In addition to making progress on those systems, another serious issue addressed in 2022 was the condition of the floors. Both the main truck floor and portions of the second floor were rotted. The main truck floor was reinforced with new rebar and concrete as was the second floor former locker room.
Looking ahead to 2023, work on HVAC and other building systems are to be completed and safety upgrades added. This spring the final major exterior problem will be addressed when all the exterior brickwork is repointed and missing bricks replaced.
When done, the main floor will be a Public Heritage Space and Education Centre demonstrating with original fixtures and artefacts how Firefighters lived and worked in the building over almost 100 years. It will also feature a wall of honour for firefighters and first responders and a donor wall.
As visiting and learning at the Public Heritage Space will be free of charge for Wellanders and tourists alike, school classes and other groups, the second and third floors will be rented to small businesses and not-for-profits to make the project self-sustaining economically. To accomplish this final hurdle we have launched a major Fundraising Campaign to meet accessibility standards with a new entrance, staircase and elevator addition at the rear of the building.
Here is a message from Anna Olson, who is Honorary Chair of Central Station Education Initiative’s 2023 Fundraising Campaign:
“I have been familiar with this grand old building with its irreplaceable history of firefighting in Canada for many years and am pleased to lend my support to the Central Station Education Initiative’s Fundraising Campaign.”
Please spread the word and be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to save our firefighting history. To donate, please go to http://www.centralfirehall.ca or send your donation to Central Station Education Initiative, 30 Hellems Avenue, Welland ON L3B 3A7. To receive a Charitable Receipt for income tax purposes please include your full name and address.
Donors, volunteers and friends, we sincerely appreciate your past support and hope we can count on your continued support in 2023!
Attribution: Central Station Education Initiative.