Petrillo, The Fire Station, The Station Articles

Galante Architecture Studio Blends Old with New in Davenport (IA) Central Fire Station

Issue 9 and Volume 22.

By Alan M. Petrillo

The Davenport (IA) Fire Department’s Central Fire Station maintains its status as the oldest operating fire station west of the Mississippi after a renovation and new addition designed by Galante Architecture Studio gave new life to the old building, originally built in 1901, and married it with a new structure that brings the fire complex into the 21st century.

Staying in Service

Lynn Washburn, the Davenport Fire Department’s chief, says the 10,000-square-foot renovated portion of the Central Fire Station will continue to house a fire and rescue boat and lighter weight vehicles such as a light and air van, a brush rig, a district chief’s vehicle, and additional staff vehicles. The second floor of the old structure houses 10 administrative offices and a training room with its back wall exposed to the original 1901 brick.

1 Galante Architecture Studio married a 20,000-square-foot addition to a renovated 10,000-square-foot fire station built in 1901 for the Davenport (IA) Fire Department. (Photos courtesy of Galante Architecture Studio.)
1 Galante Architecture Studio married a 20,000-square-foot addition to a renovated 10,000-square-foot fire station built in 1901 for the Davenport (IA) Fire Department. (Photos courtesy of Galante Architecture Studio.)

Ted Galante, principal at Galante Architecture Studio, says it was important to Davenport to keep the operating status of the original station. “We wanted to respect the history and good years that the Davenport station had but help the department move forward,” Galante says. “Some people want to preserve the past, while others want buildings to look like structures of today. So for me, it’s an urban planning issue. The best years are ahead for all of us, with things looking brighter, so we want to build forward-looking structures because buildings are our cultural community of who was here and when.”

Bridging History

Galante says his role was to build a bridge between the historic building and the new structure, which he accomplished by the scale of the structures, as well as visual connection. “The addition and the renovated fire station are part of a municipal complex with a police station and municipal courthouse located diagonally to the fire station. Each of those buildings has an addition, so we did a similar thing with the Central Fire Station,” he notes. “The police station has a bridge made of beige masonry and channel glass, so we did a similar thing on the new hose tower of the fire station, which is partially clad in channel glass that lights up at night and complements the police station.”

The two-story expanded portion of the fire station is 20,000 square feet with terracotta material on its upper level to reflect the common brick on the original fire station, Galante explains. “It serves as a visual link between the existing building and the expansion of the station,” he says. “And, the beige colored lower panels on the expansion are a link to the street-faced brick of the older building.”

2 The renovated Davenport (IA) Central Fire Station continues its life as the oldest operating fire station west of the Mississippi River
2 The renovated Davenport (IA) Central Fire Station continues its life as the oldest operating fire station west of the Mississippi River.

Linking the old and new structures is the new hose tower, which also forms a visual link with the original hose tower that was left on the original firehouse. “We were able to insert a training tower into the new hose tower,” Galante points out. “It has floor drains so it can be fully wet down and is made out of Cor-Ten material, a hybrid material mix of copper and mild steel where the copper patines itself and protects the carbon steel underneath. It expands the life span from 20 years to 70 years.”

Jim Bickford, Davenport’s assistant chief, says the new hose training tower has provisions for performing personal bailouts, rappelling, hose work (both wet and dry), and ladder exercises because each level of the tower has a door that can be laddered.

Bickford notes the department had a number of requirements for the addition to the original station. “We didn’t want to back in the apparatus off of a busy road. We wanted a door for every apparatus, individual bedrooms, enough bathrooms, and plenty of lockers,” Bickford says. “Galante designed the addition with 13 bedrooms, four lockers in each bedroom, and a bathroom between every bedroom.”

3 This view of the rear portion of Davenport’s fire station addition shows the seven drive-through apparatus bays.
3 This view of the rear portion of Davenport’s fire station addition shows the seven drive-through apparatus bays.

Galante says his architectural studio designed seven apparatus bays, including five drive-throughs in the new section, which is built as a slab-on-grade building where all of Davenport’s heavier weight apparatus can be placed without concern of being over a basement, as is the case with the original firehouse. Two of the new bays are double deep, two are single deep, and the other three range from 55 to 60 feet long.

Site Challenges

Galante’s team faced issues with the site before they could begin the new structure, he notes. “The grade from the front of the existing building pitches south toward a river, and we were building the new addition on the south side, which is now 20 inches lower than the existing apparatus slab,” he says. “We had to manage that grade and get in and out of each floor without using giant steps and also manage the drainage from rain runoff.” But, the grade change raised up the new entrance on the side of the building, which Galante says “gives it a visual gravitas and serves as a link between the existing and the new buildings.”

4 Two engines sit in apparatus bays in the Davenport (IA) Central Fire Station addition.
4 Two engines sit in apparatus bays in the Davenport (IA) Central Fire Station addition.

The other site issue, he says, was that the ground needed to be strengthened because of its location near a river. “We had the construction manager (Bush Construction of Davenport, Iowa) drill holes then drive and compact lifts of rock and stone in them over the 10,000-square-foot footprint of the new building,” Galante says. “Once they were done, we were able to place footings on top of the compacted lifts, with each being approximately six feet on center.”

The entire project, Galante points out, was delivered on time at $850,000 less than its projected $12 million budget.

“One thing unique to this project was that we used building information modeling where we built a computer model and had the 20-plus subcontractors put all their information in it,” Galante says. “We were able to work with Rock Island (IL) Arsenal and walk the Davenport people through a digital model before a shovel even hit the ground. “We were in an eight- by eight-foot room and used joysticks to fly the building around them, which allowed us to make changes to doors, pipes, and other things before construction even started. That was the first time we had the experience of flying a client through a designed building.”

5 The new hose tower on Davenport’s station addition doubles as a training tower.
5 The new hose tower on Davenport’s station addition doubles as a training tower.

Washburn says the department is pleased with how the project turned out. “It’s unique to have the old structure with a modern one behind it, but we like having the blend of the past and the present,” she says. “The new addition mirrors the exterior finishes we have downtown and shows that we were able to preserve our past while preparing for the future.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

6 A large training classroom on the second floor of the renovated original station has a back wall of exposed brick that forms the exterior of the building
6 A large training classroom on the second floor of the renovated original station has a back wall of exposed brick that forms the exterior of the building.