University to donate land for new U. City fire station

| Staff Reporter

The University City Fire Department is being relocated after being stationed for almost 80 years at the City Hall Annex. The new fire station is expected to be built on land donated by Washington University at the northwest corner of Vernon and Westgate Avenues.

“Wash. U. was approached by University City to be part of a competitive grant proposal to seek funds for a new fire station in the area north of Delmar,” said Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and  local government affairs.

The new fire station will be built using a $2.6 million federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from federal stimulus funds. This grant is expected to cover the design and construction costs of the new fire station.

“The piece of land requested as the site for the fire station is owned by Wash. U.,” Adelstein said. “Currently the University and University City are working out the details for the land use. We expect a positive result for all concerned and the fire station to build on the Vernon Avenue site.”

“The new fire station will replace an existing fire station that is over 100 years old,” University City Fire Chief Steve Olshwanger said. “It is more practical to build a new station instead of renovating the existing one. The new station will have bigger room for trucks, and there will be individualized sleeping quarters giving our staffs more privacy since we have both male and female staffs now.”

The University City Fire Department, with a staff of 44, owns two firehouses, Stations No. 1 and No. 2, as well as the headquarters. Station No. 2 is located away from the other two at North and South Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. The current plan is to relocate Station No. 1 and the headquarters, which share space with the police department at the City Hall Annex. The freed-up spaces will be used to renovate and expand the police department.

“Many Wash. U. faculty, staff and students live in this area, and the University owns many buildings in the Parkview Gardens Neighborhood,” Adelstein said. “A new fire station will improve response time and have a positive impact for everyone living in the area.”

There is much anticipation over the construction of the new facility.

“Everybody’s excited to move to a more modern and more up-to-date facility,” Olshwanger said. “We are hoping that it will be completed by the end of 2010.”

The University City Fire Department was founded in 1910 and has been stationed at the City Hall Annex since 1930. The present building that houses both the fire and police departments was constructed around 1904 as the home of Lewis Publishing Company. The owner of the company, Edward Gardner Lewis, later became the first mayor of University City.

Station No. 1 holds a number of memorabilia collected over the last 80 years, including a wooden Dalmatian made by schoolchildren and a collection of toy fire trucks. The fire department’s awards for heroism are also on display at Station No. 1. These memorabilia will be relocated to the new fire station upon completion.