To preserve the history of the Aurora Fire Department and fire service in our region through our collections and exhibits while educating visitors about fire safety and prevention.
Renovating Aurora's Old Central Fire Station
A history of changes • 1894 article describing the new station
Blog • Photos • News coverage of the 2000-2003 renovation
ARFM's Old Central Station Renovation Blog
June 2001 • December 2001 • Spring 2002
September 2002 • August 2003 • October 2003
(scroll down for the latest news)
The Plans are done, Bids are in, Construction Begins!
It has been a long and tumultuous path that began in January, 2000, when the ARFM learned that the City of Aurora had been awarded a $750,000 grant through the State of Illinois "Illinois First" program for the renovation of Aurora's Old Central Fire Station. Throughout last year, a team of architects from Durrant Associates worked tirelessly to produce detailed drawings and plans to reconstruct the building's 1894 facade and outfit the interior with much needed improvements and finishing touches.
On November 16th, Bill Miller an engineer for Durrant Associates, was performing some final structural assessments in the basement crawl-space of the Old Central Fire Station. As he exited the basement, Bill discovered several areas where, "Substantial amounts of concrete had fallen away [from the concrete support beams] exposing severely deteriorated steel reinforcing bars." He also noted, "Minor to moderately deteriorated areas scattered throughout the floor that consist of various degrees of spalled concrete and exposed reinforcing steel." As summarized in a letter dated December 4th, "The condition of the two severely deteriorated beams could pose a threat to the integrity of the main floor and the life/safety of the occupants. It is our [Durrant's] opinion that the main floor will not be suitable for occupancy until these structural issues are addressed." It was truly an "oh-no" moment! The structural repairs needed to reinforce the building's first floor were beyond the original scope of the "Illinois First" grant and caused the City of Aurora and the ARFM to search for additional funds.
In December the drawings were finally completed by the architect and the City of Aurora issued the project out for public bid. After numerous addendum and revisions, the bids returned with a huge spread in dollars -- $581,675 to $1,150,000. A decision was made to rebid the entire project. On March 13, 2001 a Resolution was passed by the Aurora City Council to accept the renovation bid of $754,965 from John Edward Construction Company of Downers Grove.
Progress has been slow yet steady. Tuck-pointing of the building's exterior walls is underway. A new floor and office space have been added above the former basement boiler room. The structural concrete repairs are expected to begin soon, and the steel beams that will support the roof-top onion dome have been ordered.
Quoting the November 19, 1894, issue of the Aurora Beacon News, "In respect to cost, finish, appearance, convenience and good taste, there is nothing additional to wish for. The [Central Fire Station] building, which everybody has watched grow to its present graceful proportions, might be the pride of any city." We invite you to again watch us "grow" to become the pride of any city!
Progress, problems, and renewed optimism!
It has been nearly two years since the ARFM learned that the City of Aurora had been awarded a $750,000 "Illinois First" grant to renovate the Old Central Fire Station. Although the project has been delayed by countless problems, progress is steadily being made.
Large steel beams needed to support the onion dome and bay windows were installed this summer. The new roof is all but completed, the hose tower sports new cedar siding, and the most dramatic appearance -- the building's four original skylights have been reopened and replaced. Once again the interior of Old Central Station is bathed in natural sunlight.
While these improvements have been made "topside" a crew has been working to patch and replace the damaged concrete foundation beams and footings in the building's crawlspace.
Progress has not been without pitfalls. Numerous problems have lead to cost increases, delays, and feelings of frustration. Although there are still several unresolved issues, the ARFM is bolstered by the unwavering support from the City of Aurora, and we remain confident in Durrant architects and John Edward Construction Company.
Early October, John Edward Construction hired Rich Bagdon as our new on-site construction manager. Rich brings a wealth of experience and an eye for detail to our detail-wrought project. Principals from The Durrant Group, our architects, have recently restated their enthusiasm for our project, and their desire to get the job done, and "be proud of it!"
"What is going on over there?"
It is a common question about work at the old Central Fire Station, yet for the past few months, the answer is a frustrating, "not much."
Late last summer into early fall, a series of mishaps and a spat of bad weather soaked much of the second story old Central Fire Station warping floors and ruining drywall. The City of Aurora has been actively negotiating with all parties since last fall, yet as with most insurance and legal settlements, progress is measured in inches not miles. Now the protracted negotiations with John Edward Construction Company's insurance carrier have brought all work in the building to a halt.
"We are frustrated, but still optimistic," says David Lewis, Curator. "We'd like to see work continue on the building's front facade at least, yet the new bay windows need to tie into the damaged second floor walls." Unfortunately, everything hinges on something else and little can happen until the insurance companies work out a settlement and a we all agree on a plan of action.
Renewed optimism (again!)
Wahhooo..... on June 20 the onion dome is reinstalled! This onion-shaped dome is the figural and literal crown of the building's distinctive front facade. In coming weeks, three bay-windows and a large decorative cornice will be completed, and the two overhead-style apparatus doors will be replaced by historically accurate recreations. All of these exterior improvements are the result of countless hours of research and planning by a team of architects and historic preservationists.
Work is also progressing on the building's interior. The water-logged plaster walls, insulation, carpet, and warped wood floors have been removed and a second general contractor (Ward Contracting Inc.) has been given the task of rebuilding the second floor.
The end IS near! -- YIKES! -- Say is ain't so!?
After nearly two-and a half years of demolition, and reconstruction, the end is within sight. In June of 2003, Ward Contracting Inc. completed the building's second floor, and it looks AWESOME! (see the photos here) The floors, walls, skylights and bay windows, oh-my! Many retired firefighters have commented that the building has never looked so good, and a few active members of the Aurora Fire Department are are so envious they're threatening to move back in. (Sorry Chief, you can't have the old chief's office, we are going to use that room as our library/archives).
With the second floor finished, focus has shifted back to the ground floor. The wood walls of the apparatus room have been refinished, and the carpenters have been busy working on patching and replacing trim as needed. In coming weeks, first floor will receive a new concrete topping with an imitation wood-pattern, and the building's main staircase will be rebuilt. Once these two major projects are completed, it will be a few more weeks of finishing touches -- and then -- the celebrations can begin!
The end is -- HERE?!?
On Monday, October 27, Chase Stairwerks began installing the custom wooden staircase in the apparatus room of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum! This is the final piece to our complex renovation puzzle. Meanwhile Ward Contracting has been working on installing trim and baseboard, and miscellaneous hardware though out the first floor, and most exciting -- they have given us an end date!.
Join us for our
Nightmare is Finally Over
End of Construction
Tuesday November 25th
from 4:30 to 9:00pm
| click from more details |