WIN: Jefferson Park Fire Station Reuse Evolves into Preservation- Sensitive Restoration

After the initial redevelopment proposal for the Jefferson Park Firehouse was presented in February 2018, there was significant concern. A little over a year later, concern has shifted to enthusiasm as the updated adaptive reuse plans embrace the historic character of one of Chicago’s oldest surviving firehouses. Preservation Chicago applauds developer Tim Pomaville for this new direction. The extensive advocacy effort included partnership with local neighborhood organizations, community organizing, a focused social media campaign and direct advocacy to the alderman, the developer and other key decision makers.

The developer Tim Pomaville, president of Ambrosia Homes, plans to purchase the building from the City of Chicago and adaptively reuse it as a micro-brewery for Lake Effect Brewing Company with nine apartments above. The project is estimated to cost $2.4 million. A new floor will be added to the structure setback from the front facade of the building. The Jefferson Park Firehouse has been vacant for five years and previously was used for the 45th Ward sanitation office for many years.

Built in 1906, the two-story brick fire station at 4835 N. Lipps Avenue originally had elegant beaux-arts detailing including strong horizontal base elements, a decorative cornice and a projecting triangular pediment. In a very welcome change, the developer is now planning to reconstruct the lost elements.

“Using reference photos of what the firehouse used to look like, Pomaville said the new plans aim to restore as much of the original ornamentation that was removed from the building over the years. Some of this includes restoring the triangular ornamentation from the front of the building and installing stained glass windows which historic photos show the firehouse used to have.” (Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 3/28/19)

“We really want to compliment the city’s original design of that building. That’s the main theme,” Pomaville said. “So wherever we can, we’re going to try to make it like it was. And I think it’s pretty neat, it’s going to be a very pretty building when it’s done.” (Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 3/28/19)

The revised redevelopment plans for the historic Jefferson Park Firehouse embrace the building’s history, character and authenticity. Preservation Chicago applauds 45th Ward Alderman John Arena for his support, and Ambrosia Homes and Lake Effect Brewing for listening to the community, integrating the comments and changing the trajectory of the development. Preservation Chicago believes that embracing the historic character will not add materially to the project costs, but it will contribute significantly to the success of the micro-brewery once the building is open.

Preservation Chicago, the Northwest Chicago Historical Society and Alderman Arena supported the adaptive reuse of this early Chicago firehouse, and worked to encourage the development team to value and honor the integrity of the historic building and to return lost historic elements to the building, including the following specific recommendations:

  • The second floor of the existing historic firehouse should not be demolished and replaced by new construction.
  • The cornice, triangular pediment and corner elements should be rebuilt on the original second floor roofline as closely as possible to the original design based upon the historic photographs.  These historic elements were originally constructed from brick, stone, and copper sheet metal.
  • The rebuilt cornice should be at the second floor roofline, with the new floors set back 10 feet from the cornice line. This would allow for exterior patio space on the roof as well as protecting and respecting the historic structure.
  • Window openings on the upper floors should align to follow the historic building below on primary elevations. The “black-eye” punched internal balconies as seen in earlier renderings should not be permitted. In this case, exterior balconies are preferable to internal balconies and it would be preferable to have balconies on side and rear elevations.

Additional Reading:
Lake Effect Brewing Aims To Bring Historic Firehouse Back To Its Former Glory, Revamped Plans Show

Taking input from community groups like Preservation Chicago and Northwest Chicago Historical Society, the new plans attempt to bring back as much of the building’s history as possible, Alex V. Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 3/28/19

Brewery, apartments proposed for oldest firehouse building in Jefferson Park, Jay Koziarz, Chicago Curbed, February 28, 2018

Lake Effect Brewing unveils taproom plans for 112-year-old Jefferson Park firehouse, Alex Nitkin, Chicago Curbed, March 9, 2018

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