By Meghan Allen, Intern
Have you ever driven by an old house and wondered what the history behind thestructure was? Buildings can tell an interesting story of the past if people would only give the structure a chance; that is what historic preservationists do. They speak for the buildings that do not have a voice. One such building is Chemical No. 5, located at 166 Cleveland Avenue at St. Catherine's Court in Buffalo, New York.
Chemical No. 5 was originally called Engine No. 37 and was built in the year 1894. The name was changed from Engine No. 37 to Chemical No. 5 when firefighting was changed to utilize the mixture of chemicals and baking soda to increase water pressure in the hoses. The architect who designed the plan for Chemical No. 5 was Edward Kent; who also designed the Unitarian Universalist Church, also located in Buffalo, New York. The estate belongs to John J. Albright, who also owns the Unitarian Universalist Church. Several distinct features of the building are unlike the other structures which are built in modern times.
The style of the building is referred to as Art Nouveau, which was popular type of archite
cture utilized in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Art Nouveau stands out with a depiction of leaves and flowers which are in flowing lines on the structure. Tie rods on the building and the lettering used to spell Chemical No. 5 are also features of Art Nouveau. A corbel and foliated corbel are featured around the structure are also other distinct features on this building. There is also a bell cote located at the top of the building, which housed a bell and provided ventilation in the interior of the building. A part of the steel frame of the hay loft crane still remains on the exterior of the building. Another distinct aspect of this building is the wooden beams reinforced with steel within the interior of Chemical No. 5, which arch over the ground floor. The roof is steep which was utilized to hang the hoses to dry. These distinct features make Chemical No. 5 a unique structure with a lot of history.
Since Chemical No. 5 was primarily utilized as a firehouse in the early years of the structur
es existence, there were several factors to consider when it was designed and built. One of the most important aspects of firefighting in the 1800s, early 1900s was the use of horses for
mobility. The horses needed to be quickly accessible and cared for properly. Stables needed to constructed on the ground floor of the building to house the horses. On the second floor of the building, there was room for the crews and feed for the horses. The original creation of thebuilding included a 6-foot terra cotta gargoyle with hind legs, no front legs, a long neck, and little wings, who watched over the property. Unfortunately, the gargoyle was lost to the hands of time. Chemical No. 5 was a firehouse for about 75 years when the structure was no longer being utilized for this purpose. After another 20 years, the University at Buffalo's Dean of Architecture and Environmental Design, Bruno Freschi and his wife, converted the once bustling firehouse into a comfy residential structure and studio. Although the use of Chemical No. 5 changed with time, history of the structure was never forgotten.