Fire stations of the world: Dunedin Central Fire Station, New Zealand
The 88-year history of fire fighting from Dunedin's Central Fire Station may be coming to a close. Fire and Emergency New Zealand has confirmed it is undertaking a review of its tenure at the building, which has a Heritage NZ (NZHPT) listing as a category 2 historic place. This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. The station was built in 1931 and housed the firemen and their families as well as fire engines and equipment and until 1938 also housed the St John Ambulance Association's ambulance. This central station is a visual reminder of the history of the fire service in Dunedin, of the growth of Dunedin as a major city and of the importance of fire as one of the major hazards to New Zealand communities.
The fire station has considerable streetscape significance, with one of the station's facades on a main street. The building is valued for its visual appeal, being constructed of attractive warm brick material which is offset by interesting plaster details.
The fire station represents a competent essay in several architectural styles of the period by the firm Mandeno and Fraser. As such the place deepens our understanding of the architectural partnership, which was considered to be an important one in Dunedin.
Dunedin's fire brigade and station building have played an important part in the Dunedin community for many years, and represents the importance of a fire service to the community. The large station building is a visual reminder of the growth and development of Dunedin City. It demonstrates the lifestyle of the firemen and their families, a close knit group which may be considered to have an identifiable culture centred on the station.
Dunedin suffered from several serious fires in the 19th century, and the fire service was obviously crucial in containing these. The fire brigade has long been an example of service, often voluntary, to the community. It has also provided an ideal of heroism for many New Zealanders.
As the Dunedin station has all the elements present found in a typical large fire station, it can provide information on the operation and functioning of a fire station. The building has the potential to show the way of life of the firemen and their families, including the type of accommodation provided, and can demonstrate the importance of the fire service to the community.
The historical part of the Dunedin Fire Station consists of the main block and the adjoining married men's quarters situate at the rear of the main block and at right angles to it.
Both buildings were designed by the Dunedin firm of Mandeno and Fraser and were completed in 1931.
The eclectic nature of the main block can be seen in the variety of styles it incorporates. It is constructed of stretcher bond brick, a material which was widely used in the 1930s for eclectic Beaux-Arts design, of which the fire station is a good example. The architect's choice of style was well suited to the function of the building which required a series of large doors to allow for the fast and immediate exit of fire engines.
The classical emphasis of the main facades is to be found in the regular rhythm of the window bays, the multi paned Georgian style casement windows and the decorative plaster panels, which features motifs related to the fire service, such as crossed fire axes. On the rounded corner of the building is found a panel containing the date of the building. A fireman's helmet motif also appears in a pair of flanking panels on the central parapet of the station.
There are Moderne elements also, seen in the rounded corner of the building on the Castle St corner and the streamlined flat roofed appearance from the high parapet in front.
In contrast the Married Men's Quarters block is executed in Domestic Revival, seen in the shaped timber and wrought iron brackets on the balconies, and in the brickwork above the doors of some of the flats.
Responding to Otago Daily Times questions, a FENZ spokeswoman said, ''Due to planned future changes around the area of our Dunedin central station, we are reviewing the site and its suitability for our long-term needs.'' The new Dunedin Hospital is to be built across the road from the station, and considerable roading changes are planned.
Any move from the building designed by Mandeno and Fraser, built in 1930 and occupied in 1931, would not be immediate, however. ''We are committed to operating out of the Castle St site in the short to medium term,'' the spokeswoman said.
Fenz regularly reviewed its operational facilities, to ensure it had the right resources in the right places to continue to keep people safe, she said. The review was an ongoing process without a specific timeline. It was being conducted jointly between local management and the strategy and capability branch at Fenz's national headquarters.
Heritage NZ Otago Southland area manager Denise Anderson said the evolution of technology and rapid response requirements within Fenz might mean the building did not fit its purpose in the long term.
''Adaptive reuse of buildings happens all over the country and can add another chapter to the rich heritage and history of a place if the reuse is undertaken sympathetically.'' She said Heritage NZ would ''absolutely'' like to be involved in the review. ''We would be delighted to be able to offer guidance on future options for the building.''
Source: Heritage New Zealand and Otago Daily News