Ceiling, Floor Looking for New Homes After 56 Years in Firehouse

Times Staff Writer

City Councilwoman Joy Picus and her staff are looking to put a 56-year-old firehouse's ceiling over someone's head or its floor under someone's feet.

Both are free for the taking. There's only one catch. They have to be taken quickly.

Reseda Engine Co. 73, one of the oldest fire stations in the San Fernando Valley, is scheduled to be demolished by the end of the year to make room for a larger, modern, more earthquake-resistant facility.

Picus and her staff hope a local businessman, restaurateur or resident will rescue the station's ivory-colored, stamped-tin ceiling tiles and the red-brown tile floor before the station in the 7400 block of Reseda Boulevard is reduced to rubble.

"The ceiling and tiles are beautiful," said Picus aide Roberta Boardman, who is spearheading the effort to save the ceiling. "Everybody who sees it flips."

The problem, said Susan Pasternak, another Picus aide, is that the ceiling tiles are nailed down.

"It's pretty hard to remove and pretty costly, and that's the rub," Pasternak said. "And the demolition permit calls for the station to be demolished in a couple of weeks, so the clock is ticking."

Opened in 1933

The one-story, 4,000-foot, Spanish-style brick station was built in 1931 for $21,615, and opened Jan. 1, 1933, said Los Angeles City Fire Capt. Lorrell Cooper. A 1,448-foot addition was built about 30 years ago for an aerial ladder truck.

The station is being torn down to make way for a $1.4-million, 9,000-square-foot facility, complete with such modern amenities as a diesel-exhaust dispersal system and separate dorms for men and women.

The Reseda Station firefighters moved to Station 103 in Northridge in February. They took the original station plaque and station numbers with them, said Capt. Charles Casper, who worked in the Reseda Station for three years.

Even if the unreinforced masonry building could be brought up to earthquake standards, it would be too small, Cooper said. Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin as soon as the old one is demolished, he said.

Picus' office had offered the ceiling and floor tile to the Hamburger Hamlets restaurant chain. Chain officials had planned to use the tiles to renovate its Woodland Hills or Sherman Oaks restaurants, said Jon Richards, projects coordinator for Hamburger Hamlets. But the plan fell through because it took too long for the city to approve the gift.

"It's a beautiful, old tin ceiling," Richards said. "We were going to preserve it and put a plaque up saying it was from the Reseda Fire Station." But by August, when the City Council approved a resolution that would have permitted the transfer, "it was too late for us," he said.

Richards said the company estimated it would take two days and cost several thousand dollars to remove the ceiling.

Bill Sharp, a spokesman for Shirley Brothers Inc. of Pasadena, which will demolish the old building and put up the new one, said he plans to begin the project as soon as paper work is completed. The demolition company is taking the red-tile roof and large wooden front doors but has no interest in the ceiling tile, he said.

Casper said a few firefighters who worked in the station have asked for a part of the ceiling as a memento.

"We all have a little bit of sentiment to it," he said. "It was like a home to us."

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