It was built more than a century ago but that’s not all that makes historic fire station #1 in downtown Roanoke historic. The station was built in 1906 and is modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
And forget about fire engines! Horses were used to pull fire wagons. In fact, there were stalls for 9 horses and you can see where they left their mark on the fire house. We spoke with Tiffany Bradbury who is a fire and prevention specialist with the Roanoke Fire Department. “The horses -- you could see where they licked the walls. They had licked the salt off and then the grade of the station was a little bit downhill so it was easier for them to get a running start,” she said.
“The bell tower -- all of this was refinished about ten years ago.” Ralph Tartaglia is deputy chief of the Roanoke Fire Department. He had the pleasure of working at Fire Station One. He said he enjoyed interacting with people in the community. “Just the interaction with the people. One of the things about this being downtown is there is a lot of interaction with the folks,” he said.
The location has provided a backdrop for numerous politicians, both current and former. Former President Bill Clinton visited in 2009 during an appearance for his longtime friend and fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe, who ran for governor. In 2004, John Kerry made a stop when he was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Because of its detailed design, students studying architecture are drawn to the building. The bell was taken out of the old station and moved to the station on Church Avenue. The station was one of the oldest operating firehouses in Virginia until it stopped running fire calls in 2007.
Fire Station One is open for free public tours. For more information and to schedule a tour, contact Tiffany Bradbury at 540-853-5785.