Did you know that one of the oldest continually operated firehouses in the country is right here in Richland County?
The 1872 Historic Engine House on Main Street in downtown Shelby is a survivor. The second oldest of its kind in Ohio, it anchors one corner of the Shelby Center Historic District, which itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As the Independent News shared in July, 1872, Shelby City Council purchased “…one of Button’s first class Hand Fire Engines, two Hose Carts, and one thousand feet of Hose” to outfit the building and fire department. The advertisement for contractors later that year called for a brick building 30 by 45 feet in size with a tin roof. The fire engine cost $1,700, the building itself cost $4,000, and the entire expense came in at $10,000.
The brick Italianate building has changed somewhat over the years while maintaining its original function. What hasn’t changed is the presence of two fire engine bays on the main floor, with accomodations for firefighters on the second floor. The structure was expanded at some point to the rear, and a cement block pull-through was added in the 1960s.
As is typical with firehouses, a tower, which survives, allowed for the drying of fire hoses after use. Decorative interior elements survive as well including press tin ceilings.
The Black Fork of the Mohican River runs adjacent to the building, which sits in a flood plain. This has resulted in occasional flooding, and that situation will need to be mitigated for this building and others to have a long-term future.
After construction of the new Shelby Fire station a few years ago, the 1872 Historic Engine House has housed a private EMS company.
Buildings such as the Engine House provide opportunities for both civic space and for adaptive reuse. In January, the Shelby Historical Preservation Commission gave a statement at a City Council meeting expressing their goal of working to preserve, maintain, and restore the building.