Hearing to be held on city fire station’s historical significance

  • The Greenfield Fire Station was closed off to the public last week in preparation for construction of the new library. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2021 4:48:04 PM

GREENFIELD — The Historical Commission plans to hold a public hearing Thursday evening to receive input on the historical significance of the fire station on Main Street — in preparation for its demolition.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. at the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street.

“As per the demolition delay ordinance, if a building is considered to be historic, or has significant historical impact, then we’re supposed to have a hearing to talk about it,” said Historical Commission Chair John Passiglia. “In the case of the Fire Station, the only reason it was ever considered historic was because it was built on the same lot as the library.”

Although the fire station building isn’t historic, he explained, the library, which was built in 1797, is.

“That’s really historic because of the architectural design,” Passiglia said. “That’s been a cultural icon for a hundred years.”

And with the Fire Station built behind the library, it sits on land that is also protected.

“They should have separated back (when it was built),” Passiglia said.

Because of the land’s historical significance, the Historical Commission was called in to work with the Fire Department to come up with a memorandum of agreement to preserve any historic items the department wanted saved.

“I went through and toured the Fire Station with the chief and identified items they wanted to save, like the firemen’s pole, the cupola … whatever they wanted,” he said. “I put that in a document and sent it to the state Historic Commission.”

Passiglia said working with stakeholders or owners leading up to a demolition is standard to “come up with some kind of compromise.”

He pointed to the Greenfield Recorder building, which is in the middle of changing ownership, as an example. Passiglia said the Historical Commission recently worked with the building’s potential new owner to come up with a solution to “mitigate the demolition.” Some of that includes saving and reusing certain timber from the original structure and interpretive signage.

Passiglia said the hearing on Thursday was brought forward because it seemed not everyone realized that with the vote in 2019 to build a new library, the Fire Station would eventually need to be demolished.

“We thought this would be good for people to give their input about the station,” he said.

Last month, the Fire Department completed its move from the station on Main Street into a temporary structure on Hope Street, which officials expect the department to operate out of for the next two years while a new station is built. The city is continuing negotiations regarding the open air market property on Main Street near Coombs Avenue, where it hopes to build the new station. 

With the Main Street Fire Station, he said, “there’s nothing really historic about it at all.” Built in the 1930s, he said, it has been too small for the department decades, and the floor has been unable to hold the weight of the engines.

“The function of the hearing is to just allow folks the opportunity to give input about their thoughts in terms of the historical significance,” he said.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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