deTour: Lexington Fire Station #1

The Blue Grass Trust’s deTours  is a group of young professionals (and the young at heart).  The program provides behind-the-scenes tours of  historic buildings, places, and sites in central Kentucky.   BGT deTours are free and open to the public. They occur on the first Wednesday of every month.

Lexington Fire Station #1 is located on Third Street next to the Old Episcopal Burying Ground

This month, BGT deTours combined the spookiness of Halloween and Fire Prevention month. We toured the Old Episcopal Burying Ground and Chapel then the nearby Lexington Fire Station #1.

Ladder 1 at Station #1

LFD seal features a horse drawn response unit.

The station was designed by J. Graham Miller and constructed in 1928.  It was the first firehouse in Lexington designed for fire trucks rather than horse drawn units. The last horse drawn response in Lexington was in July of 1926, but (being the “horse capital of the world” and all) the FDP seal prominently features a team of  horses galloping to the rescue!

Fun Fact: The Lexington Fire Department (LFD) still uses four stations that were originally designed for horse drawn response units (Station #3 ca. 1920, Station #4 ca. 1904 and Station #5 ca. 1905).  Horse feed can still be found in the attic of Station #5!

Lexington Fire Station #1 detail

Fire Station #1 opened in 1929.  The primary elevation has Art Deco inspired elements including a symmetrical facade, repetitive geometric themes, angular outlines and tapered pylons. It is two stories, three bays and has  a porte cochere on each end.

Shell motif pressed tin cove molding, ceiling tiles and glazed terracotta

Many interior elements remain intact despite several renovations. The ceiling of the garage is decorative pressed tin. The walls are glazed terracotta.  And most exciting, four orignal fire poles remain in situ – two are still used!  Two lovely firefighters actually demonstrated the proper technique for sliding down the pole for us much to the crowd’s delight. Our youngest preservationist (age 4) exclaimed, “I wanna do that!” Pretty sure he voiced what all the grown ups were thinking (at the very least, he voiced what this grown up was thinking)!

Three of the four original poles can be seen in this photo. Also note the UK flag proudly displayed on Ladder 1.

The ancient boiler system runs on natural gas.

The station is still heated by an ancient boiler powered by natural gas.  The firefighters on duty laughingly told us they have to open the garage bays in the dead of winter to cool off the station – the boiler is either off or on. It is NOT adjustable.

A bell worth burning bridges over…

Fire Station #1, known at the time as Central Fire Station, replaced an older facility on Short Street.  After the Short Street station closed, a church claimed its large brass bell. Once the Central Fire Station opened, the fire chief at the time demanded that the bell be returned.   He burned (no pun intended) some bridges with the minister of the church, but the bell was returned.  It has remained at the Central Station/Fire Station #1 ever since.

Equipment stands at the ready in the basement locker room.

This post is dedicated to all the firefighters out there who are keeping us safe and especially to my dad,  the best fireman who ever was (at least in this girl’s eyes)-and whose 59th birthday would have been today.   Happy birthday, Dad!



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