Business

A new life for Coupeville's old fire station

Levi and Jared Ware stand in front of the old Coupeville Fire Hall, which they are rehabilitating. The historic building located in downtown Coupeville will be the home of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce.   - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Levi and Jared Ware stand in front of the old Coupeville Fire Hall, which they are rehabilitating. The historic building located in downtown Coupeville will be the home of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

What was once a ramshackle fire station will soon become a convenient hub for visitors exploring Central Whidbey Island.

Carpenters, electricians and plumbers are busy transforming the old Coupeville fire hall, located on Alexander Street across from the Island County Museum, into office and apartment space. The first-floor office will be home to the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce and visitor’s center in early 2011.

The old building, recently purchased by 511 Morris LLC, hasn’t been occupied in years and was most recently used as storage by the town of Coupeville. The purchaser is a holding company operated by the Ware family in Mount Vernon.

Jared Ware, who is restoring the building along with his brother, Levi, said the building was in better condition that expected.

“It was rough looking, but it was structurally sound,” Jared Ware said last week. But the exterior was another story. He said stucco was popping off the side of the building and any exterior wood had rotted and could be yanked off by hand.

He is really pleased with the look of the second-story apartment. The original wood floors are in excellent condition. Workers sanded them down and applied a new finish. He said the rafters will add a unique look to the approximately 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. He regretted that the fire hall’s original wall won’t be visible from the inside. Workers had to construct a wood frame on the inside of the building to help meet building codes.

“You’re building an entire structure inside the existing building,” Ware said. Workers were spending a recent Wednesday putting together the staircase for the building’s second floor.

The first floor will house the chamber’s offices plus the visitor’s center, which is currently located next door in Mariner’s Court. The new office’s red-colored, fire-station-inspired garage doors will be installed in the front of the building to help maintain the historic look of a fire station.. However, the decorative garage doors won’t open, Ware said. The building will continue to house public restrooms located on the northern side of the building near Mariner’s Court.

Like the apartment, the future chamber office will be approximately 800 square feet in size.

The Wares have had experience renovating historic buildings in the Mount Vernon area. One of the more visible projects they completed is the granary building located near Interstate 5 in downtown Mount Vernon. They also renovated the Union Hall located on the west side of the Skagit County seat.

Built in 1937, the Coupeville fire station housed two engines until the 1960s when it was transformed into a museum. Most recently, the building was used as storage by the town until several years ago.

The Ware family paid the town $1,000 for the long-neglected building with the requirement that the structure be renovated in 90 days.

Jared Ware said the renovation of the building should be complete sometime in January.

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