A crew of Denton firefighters spent Tuesday morning on an unusual salvage mission, after the city got word that the old firehouse on Avenue B is scheduled to be demolished.
Firefighters retrieved the fire pole, along with some ceiling tiles, the dedication plaque, a pair of corner guards and a section of curb that had signatures written in the concrete, according to Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Hedges, who oversaw the work Tuesday. The items will become part of the displays at the Denton Firefighters Museum in the Central Fire Station.
Word came to the Denton Historic Landmark Commission on Monday night that the firehouse near the University of North Texas, along with two restaurant buildings in the same block, will be torn down to make room for a CVS Pharmacy.
Commission members were disappointed at the news. One former commissioner, Karen DeVinney, had worked for years to try to preserve the yellow brick building. It was one of two substations built in 1930 — the other is on North Elm Street — that were designed to house the fire captain and his family in living quarters upstairs.
Students were among those hired to help staff the stations, according to Denton historical documents collected and published on www.dentonhistory.net.
The station was not designated as an historic landmark, however, either locally or by the state, before it was sold to a private party. Without a landmark designation, the commission had no say in the redevelopment plans, but at least one commission member, Pati Haworth, asked how to reach company representatives to discuss the matter with them.
Fellow commission member Peggy Riddle asked that the group be allowed to document the building before it was torn down. A representative from CVS Pharmacy said the company would be willing to participate in other salvage efforts, such as redistributing the bricks.
About 10 years ago, firefighters wanted to buy the building to make it into a union hall, but the owner wouldn’t sell, Hedges said. At that time, he felt it was still possible to save the building.
“The roof was sagging then,” he said.
Since then, the roof has failed and the weather has done its work on the inside of the building, Hedges said.
“We were kind of shocked when we first went in there,” he said.
Hedges said firefighters Tuesday saw a lot of mold and noticed that the joists and wood were compromised from being exposed to the elements for so long.
The pharmacy’s developer acquired enough parcels to have two street fronts for the store, one on Avenue B and the other on Hickory Street. The Treehouse Bar & Grill and Sukhothai II have both closed and left the buildings that will also be razed for the project.
CVS is planning a walk-up store, with no plans for a drive-through, a representative told the landmark commission Monday.
A Houston developer who had bought other parcels one block down, along Fry Street, saw a proposed project fail in 2007 after it met significant resistance.
The resistance began when the community learned that several iconic shops and restaurants in the area were going to be razed. The final blow came in December 2007 when the City Council denied a drive-through for CVS, which would have anchored the redevelopment.
Another developer built Sterling Fry Street instead, opening some retail shops on the ground floor of a four-story student apartment complex in August 2012.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.