Southside Fire Station (site)

The 1917 fire station was designed to blend in with what was once a residential neighborhood.

What is now a driveway and parking lot at a busy urban intersection was once the site of what was arguably Reno’s most charming fire station. First known as the Southside Station, it was designed by prominent Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps to resemble a bungalow, complete with a front porch and meticulously landscaped yard.

Opening in 1917, the station replaced the old Southside at Center and Liberty Streets, a building that had been constructed in 1908 for horse-drawn equipment. This new facility at 532 South Virginia Street was specifically designed to accommodate motorized apparatus, which were just arriving in Reno that year. DeLongchamps designed a second station in a similar style that was built on East Fourth Street at the same time.

The station’s residential look nicely complemented the neighborhood, which had yet to become a commercial corridor. Originally, it was flanked on either side by private homes. In 1927, Frank A. Greene built a brick grocery on the station’s north side, and much later, in 1946, the Hale building appeared to its south.

Inside, the apparatus room extended along the building’s entire north end with a small kitchen at the back. The other side contained an office, a dormitory lined with wooden lockers, and a washroom. An air raid siren was installed on a four-foot tower on the building’s roof in January 1942, to sound the signal in case of air attack.

Reno’s needs, as well as its equipment, eventually outgrew the little fire house, which closed in the early 1990s, after a larger station was opened on Moana Lane. Sometime after that, the building was demolished.

Audio

Remembering Engine Three Interviewed in 2015, retired fire captain Joe Granata shares his memories of the Southside Station, widely known as "Engine Three." Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015

Images

Southside Station, ca. 1917
Southside Station, ca. 1917 Soon after the station's construction in 1917, a fire crew poses outside with a Seagrave Chemical and Hose. Source: Joe Granata Date: ca. 1917
Plans for bungalow fire stations
Plans for bungalow fire stations A newspaper article in July of 1917 described the plans for two new bungalow-style fire stations to be constructed in Reno soon. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: July 3, 1917
Surrounded by houses, 1918
Surrounded by houses, 1918 As seen on a Sanborn fire insurance map from 1918, the fire station when constructed was surrounded by houses (marked D for dwelling and identified via the yellow tint as wood frame). The station itself was coded pink, signifying brick. Beginning in the 1920s, the houses facing Virginia Street were gradually replaced by small brick commercial buildings. Today the Jack Bacon Building stands to its north and the Hale Building to its south. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Date: 1918
The mid-century station
The mid-century station An tower housing an air raid siren was installed during World War II. As the decades went on, less attention was devoted to the appearance of the front yard, but the station's bungalow style retained its charm. Source: Joe Granata
Larger machinery
Larger machinery Although the equipment used by Reno's firefighters adapted through the years, the little station remained functional until the early 1980s. Source: Joe Granata
The Southside Station ca. 1986
The Southside Station ca. 1986 Seen in a photograph taken around 1986, the fire station housed a 1981 Seagrave pumper. The Imperial Restaurant on the right was located in the Hale building and on the left is the F.A. Greene & Co. building (see separate entries), both of which remain standing, although the station does not. Creator: Jon Wagner Date: ca. 1986
Joe Granata, 2015
Joe Granata, 2015 Retired fire captain Joe Granata worked at the Southside Fire Station, known widely as Engine Three, beginning in 1958. Creator: Patrick Cummings Date: 2015

Location

532 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Southside Fire Station (site),” Reno Historical, accessed June 17, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/156.