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ECHO PARK/ ANGELINO HEIGHTS : Firehouse May Gain Historical Status

August 28, 1994|TOMMY LI

The city's sixth fire station, built in 1929 and closed in 1987, could become the ninth to be tagged as a historical and cultural monument.

"It's unique," said Jai Pal Khalsa, an architect who nominated the 65-year-old building for the designation. "The fact that that's a Mediterranean-style firehouse and that there are not to my knowledge other firehouses of that style makes it important."

Earlier this summer, the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended that the City Council add Fire Station No. 6 at 534 E. Edgeware Road to Los Angeles' list of 600 monuments.

A council committee is expected to vote on the issue next month, said Nancy Fernandez, executive assistant for the commission.

The vacant and boarded-up firehouse rests in a community south of Echo Park called Angelino Heights, known for its Victorian homes and one of the first suburbs in Los Angeles. Angelino Heights was designated the city's first historical preservation area, Fernandez said.

Monument status ensures that any future building rehabilitation will preserve as much as possible the structure's original architectural style, Fernandez said. It also protects the monument from demolition without a favorable environmental impact report.

Built at a cost of $40,000, the two-story, light yellow fire station features a small balcony, a 2-inch-thick wooden front door, an arched entryway and an old-fashioned ceiling of stamped tin--all signs of Mediterranean-style architecture, Khalsa said.

Inside, the building has brass fire poles, rather than the aluminum ones that were installed in stations built after the 1960s, said Jon W. Jacobsmeyer, an engineer for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A city construction crew first erected Station No. 6 at 1279 Temple St. In 1948, city officials had it moved to Edgeware Road to accommodate construction of the Hollywood Freeway.

Although Los Angeles Fire Department officials closed the station in 1987 and built a new one at 326 N. Virgil Ave., Echo Park and Angelino Heights residents have remained vocal about its future use.

As a historical monument, old Station No. 6 could become an ideal spot for a community center, said Danny Munoz, former president of the Angelino Heights Community Organization.

"The community at large has been neglected for so many years, and it's time that they have a place where people can meet," Munoz said.

If that idea doesn't pan out, the city should reopen the station with engine trucks and firefighters once a seismic upgrade is completed, said another resident, Karen Jaeger.

A pastor at nearby Bethel Temple also has his eye on the building for church and community use. "If (fire officials) give it up, we're interested 1,000%," said Pastor H.M. Barfoot.

But the Fire Department has other plans for old Station No. 6.

"We're not giving it up," said fire engineer Jacobsmeyer. The Fire Department is planning to seismically upgrade the building so it can house a disaster preparedness center that is now in trailers in the San Fernando Valley.

The move could take an additional year and a half, so fire officials have agreed to negotiate with Councilman Mike Hernandez for another building for disaster preparedness staff. "There's no doubt in my mind it's going to have a (historical) designation," the councilman said. "What I like to do is weigh all the options to see what's in the best interest of all the district."

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