$134K rehab for Old Town Auburn’s landmark Fire House No. 2

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Old Town’s uniquely eccentric Fire House No. 2 is getting a $134,000 facelift. The project, paid for through redevelopment funding approved by the Auburn City Council, is targeted for completion by July 11. That would be in plenty of time for a meeting in Auburn Aug. 5 of the State Historical Resources Commission that will consider the Fire House No. 2 nomination as a National Register of Historic Places landmark. Meadow Vista’s Capital Improvements Inc. is the general contractor on the effort, which includes replacing windows and frames, handcrafting new replacement frames to match the old ones, replacing the building’s uniquely shaped and patterned roof shingles, and repainting the building. Bernie Schroeder, Auburn director of public works, said the firehouse, constructed in 1891 and in use through 1958, holds a special place in the hearts of many Auburn residents and visitors. It’s perhaps the most photographed and painted building in the city and was part of the city’s logo for many years, she said. “The goal with the project has been not to change it,” Schroeder said. “We want to retain the character that’s already built into it.” Jerry Covert and Paul Dickson of Capital Improvements are particularly proud of the presence of local contractors on much of the project. The millwork, roofing, sheet metal and glass replacement has been subcontracted out to Auburn-area tradespepole, Dickson said. “It’s 85 percent local people working on the project,” Dickson said. “It’s a local team effort.” Rickey Mason, who works for Steve Valle Painting of Sacramento, said the building has been kept up and the only problem he encountered was when the firehouse’s 700-pound bell was tested. The bell, know for its resounding tone, was surprisingly loud up close, he said. The painting contractor and the city are working together to ensure the colors being applied are accurate. Mason said dry rot has been minimal as he prepped for painting. “It’s an old building but it’s in pretty good shape,” Mason said. No. 2 Fire House – No. 1 is located on El Dorado Street in Downtown Auburn and has also been undergoing a facelift – was built at a time when hand-drawn carts were pulled through the streets to a blaze. When constructed – at 77½ feet from the ground to the gilt ball at the top of its flagpole – it was the tallest building in Old Town. Fire House No. 2 hasn’t always been located at its current site at the intersection of Main, Washington and Commercial streets. It was moved 50 feet by Roseville’s Acme House Movers in 1958 because it had been in the path of road-widening on what is now Interstate 80. At about the time of its move, the firehouse was retired from service and has become a mini-museum, displaying vintage firefighting equipment. Covert said workers are amazed at the resiliency of a building that is now well into its second century. “We see the square nails and the redwood,” Covert said. “It’s stood the test of time.”