Adaptive Reuse: Queen Anne to Fire House?

Driving down Route 131 in Cavendish, the streetscape through the historic district looks intact, interesting, cohesive — like many other historic Vermont villages. Take note of the gray building in the photograph below.

Route 131 in Cavendish, VT. Click to zoom.

If you’re not paying attention to the buildings, you might miss this. But if you are looking out the window, you will see that this house has a unique current use.

The Cavendish Volunteer Fire Department.

Yes, the sign on the building reads “Cavendish Vol. Fire Department.” Yes, behind those overhang garage doors on the front facade are truck bays. And yes, there were fire trucks in those bays.

Another view.

The bays fit right into the front facade and these porch posts remain. The concrete pylons beneath show the height of the former porch.

Curved sash windows remain, as well as clapboard and shingle siding and many architectural features.

Looking through the “porch.”

I’ll admit, I was a bit stunned looking at this building. What do you think about it? Unique, yes? I’ve never seen anything like it. One on hand, it’s great that the fire department fits into the district and the building remains part of the historic streetscape. On the other hand, I cringe to think of what was removed inside (the floor and architectural details).

Overall, it seems like a great compromise and solution for the “lack of space” problem that our small towns often face. Whatever it’s story, I think this building wins in a category for “most resourceful.” My suggestion would be improved bay doors. What do you think? Would you approve such a project?

13 thoughts on “Adaptive Reuse: Queen Anne to Fire House?

  1. Suzassippi says:

    Wow, that is a tough one. I agree that when I saw it, all I could think about was that it was gutted inside (at least the bottom floor) to make room for fire trucks. And yes, those doors don’t really fit the style, do they? But, definitely a better solution than demolishing it. Do they use the upper floors for offices?

    • Kaitlin says:

      I have no idea what the other floors are. But, yes, the entire first floor (including the actual floor) has been removed, at least from what I could see.

  2. housecrazy says:

    very interesting… I really want to know what the inside looks like now!! Usually you see things the other way around (fire station converted to house) so this is most intriguing.

  3. housecrazy says:

    agreed, the garage doors could be replaced with something more appropriate to the Queen Anne style house… but then again, maybe it’s code that firehouses have a certain type of overhead door to accomodate the trucks??

      • Karri says:

        Beyond the doors, the one side shot shows that low, long addition (presumably housing a truck) – that one bothered me. It feels “stuck on” and isn’t at all sympathetic with the Queen Anne style. That could have been done better, as well, if this were an honest adaptive reuse project meant to retain the historical integrity as much as possible. Then again, perhaps it was just a “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to turn that into our firehouse?” idea.

  4. Karri says:

    I can’t make up my mind either. One part of me wants to say, “Yay for them! And another yay for preservation!” The other part of me just shudders a little bit. Maybe we should flip a coin?

    • Kaitlin says:

      I think in terms of a streetscape in a historic district, this solution is best. It certainly is more fitting than a newly constructed building in that same location (which would also mean a demolition of this building). In terms of an individual historic building, then, no this is not the better option. But maybe this house didn’t have enough integrity to eligible anyway. Clearly, we should flip a coin!

  5. Paula Sagerman says:

    As much as I would have liked to see this beautiful house preserved, I also enjoy Vermont’s oddities. I’m amused that the porch roof and posts were preserved, it adds to the strangeness of the building. I also prefer this over the ugly boxes that have been built for volunteer departments during the past fifty years; they are some of the most awful buildings in the state.

    This makes me think of a c. late 18th century Cape in Townshend that is used as a bison barn. One of the gable ends was completely removed not to mention the loss of the interior. Both buildings could be considered atrocities, but I think stuff like this here and there makes things more interesting and amusing when driving around the state.

    However, at the same time, I don’t want to encourage this kind of adaptive reuse!

    Thanks, Kaitlin, for bringing up this important historic preservation issue.

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