Engine Company Number One
Historic Augusta, Inc.
Engine Company Number One illustrates the City of Augusta's recognition of the need to shift from a volunteer to a paid fire department to improve public protection. Noteworthy as the first firehouse in the city constructed as a public building, it is representative of the city’s late 19th-century public buildings and of the urban, “storefront-style” firehouses of the period.
Around the mid-19th century, the public became dissatisfied with the social-club attitudes and lack of efficiency of volunteer fire fighting companies. In 1853, the first American steam fire engine was built, and horses to pull the heavy steam engines became a standard part of the department. The change in firefighting equipment and the organization of paid fire departments brought a new era of professionalism and subsequent changes to firehouse design. Following national trends in firefighting, in 1886 the Augusta City Council disbanded all volunteer companies and absorbed them into a city fire department. The city built Engine Company Number One as the first public firehouse for this new city administered and paid system of fire protection.
Designed by Augusta architect Lewis F. Goodrich and constructed by G. Rounds in 1892, the rectangular, 2-story, masonry firehouse stands detached on a narrow city lot. Its architectural details are an eclectic Victorian combination including Italianate corbelled brickwork, segmental arched window and door openings, and a prominent Romanesque arch. An elaborate square wooden bell tower that gave architectural emphasis to the building is now gone, but the building’s façade retains the oversized first floor entranceway that identified it as a firehouse.
While the stylistic front facade portrays the building’s importance as a public firehouse, the remainder of the exterior is utilitarian. Two masonry outbuildings used as hay, feed, and coal storage are attached to the building’s rear. They were constructed prior to 1904 and may date from 1892 with the main building.
The firehouse interior reflected the art of firefighting in the 1890s. The first floor was one large space that accommodated the steam engine, hose wagon, horses and all other necessary equipment. The second floor consisted of a large dormitory space for the men, plus three smaller rooms for offices, meeting rooms and a bath. Interior features include beaded tongue-and-groove ceilings, unornamented plaster walls, plain cast iron columns for interior support, simple door and window moldings, upper wood floors, and lower concrete floors.
In 1954 Engine Company Number One moved to new quarters. A theater used the building, and it later became offices for the city’s electrical department. An engineering firm, Cranston, Robertson & Whitehurst, rehabilitated the building for offices in 1985.