The City of Greensboro Central Fire Station was constructed as part of a city-wide renaissance known as Greater Greensboro in which the city grew in population and expanded civic services. Paralleling the strong national economy of the Roaring Twenties, Greensboro grew to become the third largest city in the state.
The Greater Greensboro initiative began in 1923, when the city won permission from the state legislature to expand its territory through annexation and increase its population from 25,000 to 40,000. With this expansion came a new city charter and the need to build new schools, improve transportation, utilities, parks and playgrounds. Included in this era of growth was a new city zoning ordinance, a new health department, and the city’s first full-time paid fire department.
The Central Fire Station was constructed in 1926 a block north of its smaller predecessor. The new structure was designed by Greensboro architect Charles C. Hartmann – a prolific architect credited with high profile projects such as the Dudley Memorial Building at North Carolina A&T, the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Building, the F.W. Woolworth Building (now the International Civil Rights Museum), and both Dudley and Grimsley High Schools.
Hartmann designed the station using an Italian Renaissance architectural motif that interpreted the six fire-engine bays into wide classical arches supported by robust engaged Ionic columns. The columns are constructed of terra cotta and are colored and textured to resemble Mount Airy granite. They form an engaging and human scales streetscape for pedestrians walking along North Greene Street.
The Central Station was closed in 1980 and its future was in doubt until the building’s grand facade was incorporated into the construction of a large hotel in the mid-1980s. The interior of the station was adaptively reused as an interesting restaurant and live music space known as Central Station. At this time, the space is vacant, but the rhythm of the wide arched entries and robust columns remain great examples of art in architecture in center city.
Written by Benjamin Briggs
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