SE firehouse celebrates 100 years of community service

It’s no longer a fire station. See what this building has become – and how it continues to serve Portlanders today …

Meet today’s Portland Fire & Rescue Station 25 crew (from left, back row): Firefighter Mike Jeffs, Firefighter Robert Bourland, Firefighter Gretchen Pedersen, and (from left, front row) Lt. Robert Bedgood, Firefighter Tim Spring, Firefighter Mel Watts and Lt. Rich Chatman, all proudly show the “tools of the trade” that have a long history.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Built in 1912 for Portland Fire Co. No. 25, it was one of the last Portland firehouses constructed for horse-drawn firefighting equipment.

But, 50 year later, the outmoded design – and the need for a fire station to serve residents as the city expanded to the east – led to its replacement by Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Station 25, in the Woodstock neighborhood, on SE 52nd Avenue, just north of Steele.

John Kong checks out the tiller driver’s seat of Truck 25, as dad Rui Kong looks on.

And so it was that, in 1969, the old “Francis Street Firehouse” was renovated to be Portland Parks & Recreation’s Community Music Center, which continues serve both kids and adults with musical education to this day.

At the centenary celebration of the building, firefighters brought along both Engine 25 and Truck 25 to visit their crew’s heritage firehouse on August 11.

“Being relatively new to the neighborhood, this was actually kind of a surprise to me,” remarked PF&R Station 25 Lt. Rich Chatman.

“After seeing pictures from long ago, with the building as a functioning fire station,” Chatman added, “the crew was excited to come and check it out.”

Portland Fire & Rescue Station 25 truck and engine roll away to respond to a fire call, from their fire company’s former home in Southeast Portland.

While the fire service has changed quite a bit over the past 100 years – going from horse-drawn rigs to modern fire engines and trucks – Chatman pointed out that firefighters still use similar basic equipment even today.

“A good example would be the ‘pike poles’ we carry on our trucks to poke holes through walls, to make sure a fire is truly out. We also use fire axes and pry bars. And, while technology has changed, we still put the ‘wet stuff on the red stuff’ during every fire call.”

Before rolling away, responding to a fire call, Chatman concluded, “We’re really happy to see that our former fire station is in the good hands of the Community Music Center.”

CMC Director Gregory Dubay looks on, while Portland Parks and Recreation Director Mike Abbaté shows off a commemorative T-shirt.

Inside the Community Music Center (CMC) were live music, building tours, photos, and memorabilia, and an “instrument petting zoo”.

CMC Director Gregory Dubay welcomed guests, and told East Portland News, “This is also our annual community open house. In its first half century, this building was dedicated to saving lives. In this half, now as the CMC, it’s dedicated to [musically] ‘saving souls’!”

Gryffin Kearns gets his first experience playing a violin, with a little help from CMC volunteer Alexa Rakoski.

In September, Dubay said, the CMC would again be hosting music classes for all ages. “By the end of September, more than 50 professional music instructors, all City of Portland employees, will be teaching a total of about 1,500 students – and will see as many as 900 students a week come through their doors.”

And, Dubay reminded that the Family Friday Concert series will kick off in October – providing top musical groups in a family-friendly environment, with “no shushing” allowed.

CMC Director Gregory Dubay leads a tour of the historic Francis Street Firehouse – which is now the home of Portland’s music education center.

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© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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