History for sale
July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:29 PM
"Wanna buy a piece of Coupeville history?Town Mayor Nancy Conard hopes there's someone out there with a love of history and bunch of money who is willing to take the old fire hall off the town's hands.Conard wants to sell the small, 1937 masonry building located on NW Alexander Street. She has received preliminary approval from the town council to advertise the sale of the town's retired fire hall and she expects to start the process by the end of February.The town commissioned a historical and structural assessment of the building early last year. Unfortunately, the report, done by Grulich Architectural and Planning Services of Tacoma, identifies both historic and structural problems with the building.The old stucco fire hall was added onto and changed over the years, compromising the historic value of the building. Ironically, the biggest modifications to the building occurred in the 1960s, when it was converted to the Island County Historical Museum. The bay doors were replaced by a door, windows and decorative features from a house that burned down at the time.In later years the town's public bathrooms were built onto the side of the building, and at some point an extra doorway was tacked onto its side.Grulich estimates that the cost for fixing up the leaking building and bringing it to code at about $188,000, which is probably more than it would cost to construct a new building on the site. Conard said she simply can't recommend spending that kind of money on a building the town really doesn't need. It's currently being used as storage for city records, lost and stolen property and other odds and ends. She said the city could build a new storage facility at another site for around $50,000.There's a lot of grant money available for purchasing or restoring important old buildings, Conard said, but it might be hard to get grants for a building that has been changed so much over the years. She said the building would probably have to be restored to its original look in order to qualify for the money, which would cost even more moolah.Nevertheless, the little white building is cute and it's undeniably a part of the town's history. In fact, Conard said she can remember visiting the fire hall as a child when her father was a volunteer firefighter.It was very plain Jane, she said, if you can imagine it with just the bay doors in front. According to Conard, many people in Coupeville - especially those concerned about the history of the historic town - hope that the building will be restored and used for more than just a place to stick moldy old boxes. She also says a few people have already expressed interest in buying the building.Probably the most attractive aspect of the building is the location just feet from Front Street, the town's waterfront tourist destination. The last of the empty lots in the commercial area disappeared last year when a local developer built three new store fronts. Conard said that space was leased before the project was even finished.The old fire hall seems like an ideal place for an antique store or a gift shop, she says. And any person who buys the building could always apply for grant money.It seems better suited for a retail site, she said. It's such a valuable location.Conard said she will recommend putting out a call for sealed bid proposals for six months or so. She said the council members will have a lot of leeway in choosing a bid they feel will be best for the town.If the fire halls sells - along with the town's public restrooms - she said the money can be used to build nicer restrooms elsewhere.The council is real interested in that, she said. "