It remained a functional fire station for decades, keeping pace as the fire department added personnel and fire apparatus transitioned from water wagons that could be dragged by horses to ladder trucks so tall it took a high skill level to maneuver the vehicle through the bay doors. Even as Lawton Fire Department grew to include eight fire stations, Central continued to be the home to the firefighters of Station No. 1, until those firefighters moved into the new Lawton Fire Station No. 1 in the Public Safety Complex in May 2021.
Central wasn’t abandoned. The plan has been to use the building for fire department administrative offices, to include the Fire Marshal’s Office. So, the building still is used, with administrators simply adapting existing space for their use.
Develop master plan
With council action last week, C.H. Guernsey will be given the go-ahead to develop a master plan to show how the station will be fully used when renovations are completed in a phased-in process in coming years. Phase one has been outlined: renovations to meet immediate needs, with renovations crafted around the $839,953 in available funding. The design firm’s work also will include a cost estimate of the work, fire hydrant and fire suppression system corrosion tests, geotechnical borings to identify issues, and a topographic survey of the station and adjacent west property.
The contract specifies the master plan is to be completed 30-45 calendar days from the notice to proceed, with the construction schedule in phase one based on the needs identified by C.H. Guernsey.
Realizing a dream
For Deputy City Manager Dewayne Burk, who retired as Lawton Fire Chief in 2019, the work is the realization of a dream he has held for years. Burk and others have been insistent that any work done on the structure retain its historic integrity, a look that helped get the structure included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
Burk said complete renovation of the building will have to wait, but goals already have been identified in phase one. That work will include conversion of the second floor’s dormitory area into office space.
“We’re going to restore the windows on the west side,” he said. The project will provide natural light for offices by restoring windows that were removed during a previous renovation project.
The largest amount of space in the building probably is in the bay area on the ground floor, but Burk said conversion of that area is in the future because of unknown costs. Most notably, voids were found under the bay floor, the reason City of Lawton officials decided during the 2019 Capital Improvements Program campaign that Central either needed extensive renovations, or had to be moved to a new site.
Once voids are repaired, Burk might have something he would like to see added: a 1913 White fire truck that the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum in Oklahoma City returned to its home town — Lawton — in 2019. Burk, a Lawton firefighter for 27 years before he retired after six years as chief, would like to convert part of the building to an historic display area, perhaps including the truck (now housed in Station No. 8) and some of the old photographs held in the building’s secured area.