FIRE STATION No. 343 (1916) — 100 years of service – THEN AND NOW
Congratulations Station No. 343 for achieving a hundred years of service!Robert McCallum (1851–1916) served as Toronto’s city architect from 1903 until his forced resignation in 1913. As city architect, he was associated with over thirty public buildings in Toronto, including public libraries, fire halls, police stations, and Hydro substations. However, it was later revealed that he had no formal education or training as an architect and that he, instead, delegated the work to two bright young architects, John J. Woolnough and George F.W. Price, who he employed as assistants in his office. Between 1910 and 1916, the City of Toronto commissioned the building of six fire stations, which brought the total number of stations to twenty-seven. Of these, the City Architect’s Department designed four still in service today. Fire Station No. 226 (originally No. 22) at 87 Main Street was built in 1910 along with Fire Station No. 344 (originally No. 23) at 240 Howland Avenue. Station 311(originally No. 24), built in 1911, is located at 20 Balmoral Avenue. Fire Station No. 343 (originally No. 25), located at 65 Hendrick Avenue, was built in 1916. The detailing and scope of these fire stations clearly show they were the work of someone with architectural training and vision and not Robert McCallum. Designed with eclectic elements that incorporate a variety of Arts & Crafts as well as Dutch/Flemish influences, all four stations have twin doors and a variation of the same basic floor plan. Each also boasts a tower at the back of the building. Fire Station No. 226 and No. 344 have their tower on the right. While in Station No. 311 and No. 343, the tower sits on the left. The towers were designed to allow the fifty-foot fire hoses to be hung to dry, a practice still carried out today. If you visit any of these stations and view the towers from inside, you will still see the original, wood-clad interior where the hoses are hooked and hoisted to the top. Unlike Fire Station No. 343, the other three stations were designed when fire-fighting machinery was drawn by horses. The design of those stations included a stable at the back as well as a partial hayloft on the second floor. A preliminary architectural drawing (1915) for the proposed Fire station No. 25 (343) shows the location of the existing fire station, which was much smaller with a single bay door. By 1915 the Toronto Fire Department had become increasingly more motorized, so the new floor plan was slightly altered and did not include stables. The red-brick construction of Fire Station No. 25 (343) relates it stylistically to structures influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement; however, it has no lavish ornamentation or decorative embellishments. The fire station’s restrained architectural style could have been a product of cost-cutting measures implemented during World War I. A minor detail—the lintel above the bay doors identifying the station is cast in concrete and not carved in stone like the other stations. These grand old, well-designed, solidly built fire stations represent beacons of safety and security in our communities and continue to convey a sense of permanence and dependability. We should invest in preserving them for as long as we can. Congratulations Station No. 343 for achieving a hundred years of service!
GERRY CONDOTTA is a freelance writer who prefers his puns intended. He has co-created his son Kaden and looks forward to some day capturing that moment in writing.