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Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts (Ethan Allen Engine Co. No. 4)

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Ethan Allen Engine Co. No. 4
1887, Clellan W. Fisher. 135 Church St., City of Burlington

Shortly after the completion of H. H. Richardson's Billings Library at UVM (CH19.2), Fisher employed a similar vocabulary for this firehouse, having honed his skills while working at the Richardsonian firm of Fuller and Wheeler in Albany, New York. Here, his three-story brick structure is set on a rusticated redstone base and its facades organized by a play of variously scaled round-arched windows framed by multiple concentric courses of headers. The facade rises from two former equipment-bay entrances to a corbeled cornice beneath a flat roof. The entrances are framed by massive stone and brick piers with sandstone capitals beneath a frieze with the fire company's name. The rear of the building, facing City Hall Park, is more picturesque, with a single broad ground-floor segmental arch, a high hipped roof, and a hose-drying tower with an open slate-faced belfry and pyramidal roof.

Built for a volunteer company and originally housing a steam-powered, horse-drawn pumper and ladder truck, the firehouse was taken over by the city when Burlington converted to a paid municipal fire department in the 1890s. With the completion of new facilities in 1927, the building became a police station. In the late 1960s, the mayor called for its demolition, raising a storm of protest, including a story in the New York Times (September 14, 1969) by the paper's architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. The firehouse was spared and, with the assistance of a federal matching grant, it was adapted as ground-floor meeting and gallery spaces with offices above. The result was one of Vermont's earliest successful adaptive reuse projects and one of the first sites in the state to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1970).

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


What's Nearby


Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts (Ethan Allen Engine Co. No. 4)", [Burlington, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 161-161.

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