In 1998, Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue began making plans to replace outgrown Fire Stations 2 and 8, and its Headquarters, with one large, modern facility with ample resources to serve a city of our size. Dedicated in 2004, new Station 2 and Headquarters is a model facility that serves our city and our firefighters very well.
One of the stations decommissioned was Station 8, originally Fort Lauderdale Fire Department’s “West Side Fire Station” 3. In 1927, City commissioners hired Francis Abreau, the famed architect who was creating mansions in Fort Lauderdale, to create a station of exceptional design and beauty. They had good reason for this; much of the city was demolished by a hurricane in 1926, and they knew that a new and special municipal building would overcome naysayer’s gossip that “Fort Lauderdale will never come back”.
Abreau proposed a one-story building with proportions and appearance to harmonize in its Sailboat Bend residential neighborhood. His vision was a stretched out Cuban farmhouse style with Mediterranean Revival details. The details include a Spanish tile roof, a small Rotunda, eyebrow window coverings, turned stone columns, mission-style window grilles, Cuban floor tile, crown molding, a fireplace and a then-modern kitchen with walls covered in white glass to meet the standards set by new health departments nationwide. He even included an inlaid-tile fountain with a watering trough for the horses and mules that were pulling wagon loads of vegetables to sailing ships docked nearby on the New River.
While new Station 2 was under construction, firefighters began talking about re-purposing historic Station 3 into a fire museum and safety learning center. That was the positive part. The negative part was that the City knew it would be closing the Station, and stopped virtually all maintenance during those years.
Active and retired firefighters and civilians picked up the vision and started working to make a fire museum happen. The City wanted a Proposal, a Business Plan, and financial projections. The volunteers created and submitted the documents, and on December 20, 2005 a 50-year lease was signed with the City, creating the Fort Lauderdale Fire & Safety Museum. Then the real work started, as the lack of maintenance meant that the roof, electrical, HVAC, plumbing and all other systems had to be completely rebuilt or replaced. New, donated impact windows replaced all the old ones that were in poor condition, as was a complete fire sprinkler system. Over 100 gallons of paint were donated and applied. The station slowly returned to its original ambiance.
At the same time, it was necessary to remove the 1960’s era kitchen and bathroom and replace everything with period-correct 1920’s fixtures and appliances. Once the fire station looked as good as new, it was time to create a fire museum and a safety learning center. The Museum tells the major stories of Fort Lauderdale’s firefighters from 1912 to the present. The Safety Learning Center teaches children and adults fire safety, as well as other safety and medical preparedness courses.
Many people worked hard and made significant contributions to restore Station 3 and to create our Fire Museum. Among them were retired City Commissioner and local attorney John Aurelius, helping as City Liaison and with funding and grants, retired Fire Battalion Chief Bill Sharp with his outstanding craftsmanship and trade skills, and former Fire Chief Jim Van Drunen, who as Secretary kept the good news flowing. Jim also took a short course in Museum Curating, and designed and created all of the exhibits.
The Fire Museum is on hiatus now due to Covid-19 and other issues, and will reopen soon. With new Board members, new volunteers, new exhibits, new artifacts and new ideas, we hope that you will visit then, and enjoy our efforts to Preserve Our Heritage and Teach Our Youth!