HALLOWELL — Where there were once streaks of mold and creosote, there now are freshly painted walls in the fire station.
Water damage stains are barely visible on the refinished floor in the upstairs meeting hall, and firefighters finally have a place to shower in the recently renovated bathroom.
The wooden addition on the back of the building is still a mess, but the meeting hall and former apartment that Hallowell Fire Department will use for training, an office and downtime will be ready soon. It’s been about two years since firefighters implored Hallowell residents to push for repairs or a replacement for the decrepit building, which dates to 1828.
“Just what they’ve done, this shows what this building can be potentially,” Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Thompson said Tuesday. “It’s 100 percent better.”
Last May, the City Council authorized spending up to $30,000 for repairs in the meeting room and apartment.
Code Enforcement Officer Maureen Aucoin has overseen the project, and most of the work has been done by Public Works Department employees when they’ve had the time during the past year.
“When it’s a rainy day, the public works guys do a few things there,” City Manager Michael Starn said. “We’ll continue to do that.”
The project has involved repairing ceilings, replacing drywall, rewiring lights, replacing and refinishing floors, removing asbestos and installing cabinets, appliances, sinks and a shower. There’s still sawdust on the meeting hall floor, and some trim and molding remain to be done.
The project hasn’t touched the wooden addition on the back of the building, where some rooms are still filled with junk and there are holes in ceilings. Some of the damage dates to a 1932 fire, and there are also structural problems with the addition.
The repairs were intended to make the station usable for firefighters for at least a few more years, until a new station is built.
The station has other problems that can’t be solved through superficial repairs. They include a lack of parking space and equipment bay doors that are too small for modern firetrucks.
Officials in Hallowell and Farmingdale are interested in building a shared fire station, and they have formed a joint exploratory committee that started meeting in April to study the issue. One of the biggest questions to be answered is where the station would be located.
At the moment, the committee is seeking information about the calculation of fire suppression ratings, which are used to determine insurance rates and are based in part on a building’s distance from the nearest fire station.
Thompson said he expects the department will be able to move furniture in within a few weeks, and the department already has hosted a training session in the meeting hall with their counterparts from Farmingdale.
He said the firefighters are appreciative that City Council, Mayor Charlotte Warren and Starn heard and responded to their needs.
“The morale was low from the men because of the building needing repairs,” Thompson said. “It’s made them feel really good that the city’s made it more suitable.”
As Hallowell looks ahead to building a fire station, some in the city are advocating for the preservation of the current building and the firefighting artifacts that are stored in boxes in the meeting hall, which could become a museum.
“It’s one of the last historical buildings still standing, other than the public works building,” said Sandy Stubbs, president of the historical preservation group Row House.
The fire station was built in 1828 and served as Hallowell’s town and city hall until the late 1890s, when it became the fire station. The wooden fire tower in the back is one of only a few still standing in New England.
Cost estimates for fully restoring the building are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Stubbs is starting to raise money toward the project. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the city’s Old Town Hall/Fire Station reserve fund.
Susan McMillan — 621-5645