In August 1933 a devastating fire raged from dawn to dusk, consuming the second floor and roof of the Cass County Courthouse. For some time afterward, Linden reeled from the futility of having faced a devastating fire with little means but bucket brigades to bring it under control.
The following year, 1934, a grant/loan opportunity was made available by the Public Works Administration to finance the first Linden Waterworks – a municipal sanitary water and sewer system that include the 1934 Water Tower now standing at the corner of Rush and Taylor Streets. In 1935, the Linden Volunteer Fire Department was organized and men were properly trained and certified, allowing fire insurance rates to be affordable to the town.
City minutes dated February 8, 1937 authorized the construction of a Firehouse “according to the plans and specifications heretofore prepared for such building by Architect Stanley Brown,” who as it happens was a rather prominent architectural figure in the design of numerous Public Works Administration projects. For those who want to know how the grandson of an assassinated U. S. President influenced the face of Linden, Texas, please see page 9 in our “Determination of Eligibility Submittal” (which also is available on our Documents page). This request was sent for review on January 4, 2016 and resulted in a most favorable result. The following reply to our DOE request was received on January 8, 2016 from Gregory Smith, National Register Coordinator, History Programs Division of the THC:
“The 1934 Horton Tank and the 1939 firehouse are New Deal Era civic improvements, and could be listed in the National Register of Historic Places within a single nomination that would cover both properties. They are eligible under Criterion A in the area of Community Planning and Development, at the local level of significance. I recommend, however, that these properties be included in a larger downtown historic district, centered on the courthouse square.”
“Let me know which direction you’d like to take, and I’ll be happy to assist you with the nomination.”
The Old Firehouse remained in operation until 1962 when a new fire station was completed. The older building afterward had various uses until being abandoned and falling into serious disrepair in recent decades, during which period of neglect the water infiltration and damage has accelerated to the point of serious endangerment. The following interior photos of upstairs area of Firehouse were taken by Sam Higdon in 2015.
The Linden City Council passed a Resolution on 13 October 2015 to 1) invite the Foundation to submit a plan by December 31, 2015 that will materially stimulate future private development of the Water Tower and Firehouse, and 2) to determine the eligibility of both sites to be registered as official historic landmarks.
On November 9, 2015, the Linden Heritage Foundation outlined before City Council the immediate need to apply for consideration by Preservation Texas for naming the Old Linden Firehouse to the 2016 Texas Most Endangered Places List and to make application for grants that the Foundation might secure in support of Firehouse Restoration. The City agreed to convey the Firehouse to the Foundation subject to certain conditions detailed in the City Council Resolution of the same date. On January 8, 2016, the City of Linden fulfilled that Resolution by conveying to the Linden Heritage Foundation the Firehouse property, described in the warranty deed as the West 26’ of Lot 5, Block 2 of the Linden Old Townsite Survey. The Firehouse deed and other Foundation documents are available on our Documents page.
On November 14, 2015, Sue Lazara, a member of Preservation Texas (PreservationTexas.org), nominated the 1939 Old Linden Firehouse to be placed on the 2016 Texas Most Endangered Places List. This nomination was confirmed and announced at the annual Preservation Texas Summit in Austin February 18, 2016.
Meanwhile, construction of a temporary roof over Linden’s historic Firehouse was completed in late November to prevent further water damage to the interior resulting from the roof collapse in the north part of the building.
On January 4, 2016, the Linden Heritage Foundation sent a detailed submittal to the Texas Historical Commission, requesting a Determination of Eligibility (DOE) to the National Register of Historic Places. Salient points of history on both the 1934 Horton Tank No. 4816 and the 1939 Linden Firehouse were included in that submittal. The application, researched/written by Sue Lazara, Kay Stephens, Gail Dorgan, and Catherine Knapp, was successful and the site determined National Register eligible by the Gregory Smith, Texas Historical Commission.
On January 11, 2016, the Linden City Council approved unanimously the draft Request for Proposal (RFP) prepared by the Linden Heritage Foundation on the 1934 Water Tower and 1939 Firehouse – the purpose of the RFP being to solicit commercial development of the two properties with specific investment incentives. The idea is to invite and incentivize restoration of these historic structures within projects that support economic revitalization of downtown Linden. The RFP will be released in the first quarter of 2016.
On January 16, additional work was completed on the Firehouse to help secure the building from weather and trespassers. This work included shielding the interior from water infiltration through the window openings as well as proper securing of the building entrances.
The Linden Heritage Foundation submitted a Planning Grant application to the Texas Preservation Trust Fund on January 29, 2016 and the Foundation was thereafter notified that the grant request was approved. The grant award will support preparation of professional architectural planning work for proper restoration/rehabilitation of the 1939 Firehouse.
Texas Preservation Trust Fund grant recipients are expected to provide a minimum of one dollar in matching cash to each dollar awarded for approved project costs. Competitive grants are paid as reimbursement of eligible expenses incurred during the project.
One of the promising aesthetic discoveries at the Firehouse site is the presence of a native iron ore rock wall that once encircled the perimeter of the Old Firehouse. This rock wall was only about 24” high but it defined the building in a most attractive way and provided a planting bed for small shrubs and flowers to further beautify the site. Incredibly, in the late 20th or early 21st century, this pretty little rock wall was heaped over with layers of untidy and very ugly asphalt, causing a great eyesore on the property. As part of the restoration plan for the building, this rock wall is expected to be re-built and re-planted so that it can add to the positive transformation of this vital block of downtown Linden.
Linden’s 1939 Firehouse was chosen by Preservation Texas for its 2016 Texas’ Most Endangered Places list in the local public building category. The fourteen sites being added to the 2016 list were announced formally at Wooldridge Park in Austin on 18 February as part of Preservation Texas 2016 Summit.
The following statement was posted on PreservationTexas.org.
“The sites on the 2016 list represent cultural, architectural and historic places that are at risk, and represent the types of sites that are endangered across Texas. Local grassroots organizations have been working tirelessly in support of these sites. By including them on the list, Preservation Texas hopes to rally Texans statewide to step up and save them. Historic preservation has a $4.6 billion economic impact in Texas. Historic sites named to the list of Texas’ Most Endangered Places represent some of the best opportunities to make a positive economic impact on local communities through preservation, particularly through the use of the new state historic preservation tax credit.”
Preservation Texas supports sites on its Most Endangered Places List providing advocacy support, publicity and assistance and assistance in fostering and building community partnerships.
A captioned photographic timeline of the Firehouse is available on the Image Gallery page. New images will be added as preservation of the structure proceeds.
Click the following “Donate” button to make a donation to the Linden Heritage Foundation’s Firehouse Rescue Fund.