An old building. unused for decades and abandoned, speaks volumes to the passerby. A person can’t help but hear the voices that used to resonate within and it doesn’t take much imagination to envision the activity that used to occur in the space when the building was alive with people.
Unfortunately many of them end up in rubble, succumbing to the fate of the wrecking ball.
Not so for Shreveport’s Central Fire Station which stands just a few blocks away from the building pictured above. Built in 1922 and home for many years to the dedicated firemen who resided there when it was an active engine house, it has found new life.
Today that building, now known as Central Artstation, has been repurposed as home to the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, containing their offices, meeting and work spaces, and galleries. And history….for this Council didn’t just renovate and occupy the building, they kept the history intact, incorporating into its design the voices of the firefighters who used to work here.
The fire pole is intact, as is the activity board with names still inscribed of the last firefighters who worked at the engine house. Uniforms and equipment are displayed alongside artwork that reflects the former use of the building, meshing the old and the new, keeping one set of memories alive while encouraging new memories to take hold.
The old hose tower behind the station, where fire hoses were once hung to dry, is now a place for Artists in Residence and guests of the Arts Council to spend the night. The tower was originally built to equal the height of the highest building in Shreveport so firemen could practice running up the floors in full gear. Now it tests the physical stamina of visiting artists, as each floor contains a single room, with the bedroom being at the very top. Topped with a neon flame, it also summons forth the original use of the building.
All of this is guarded over by Art, the best dalmatian ever, who stands vigil over Artstation and the surrounding neighborhood. I’m pretty sure he embodies the heart and soul of any fire station dog that ever existed.
And here’s the irony in all of this. The building that used to house the Arts Council burned down. This phoenix did rise from the ashes. And what a better place for that to happen than in an abandoned fire station?