St. Croix No. 1 Enters Final Round of Rehabilitation

Skilled craftsman Butch Hanson has been hard at work shoring up the floors of the St. Croix No. 1 Fire House with massive timbers weighing about 300 pounds each. The task is among the last needed to complete the rehabilitation project. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

After fourteen solid years of fundraising and renovations, St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse is nearing the end of a long road that has seen the building transformed from a dilapidated hulk to museum-quality conditions. Taken in by the community under the organization of the St. Croix No. 1 Fire House Association, the building is now in the process of receiving some final upgrades that will enable it to serve the area long into the future.

Currently, far away from the light of day, Butch Hanson is hard at work in the depths of the building. He is – almost entirely on his own – shoring up the basement floor of the building by installing a series of massive heavy timbers, each of which is about 30 feet in length with a weight of 300 pounds. Hanson spent six weeks completing the task for the front of the building, and he is now almost finished with the rear portion.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Hanson said. The task has been monumental, especially for a solo worker. “I have on my business card, ‘No job too small.’ This is the biggest job I’ve ever attempted,” he joked. Hanson has used chainfalls and other techniques to maneuver the beams into place. “There’s a way to do everything if you plan it out.”

Once the beams are all secured, the firehouse floor will be able to support the weight of two antique fire engines. Per association president Dick Barnard, the goal is to have the engines in place when the building is opened as a museum in the coming years.

For Hanson, who has been a firefighter in some capacity since 1982, the meticulous, grueling work has been particularly satisfying. “I take it personal. I feel pretty lucky to be part of the process.”

Providing moral support to Hanson during the work has been his father, Alvie. For Alvie, it is a joy to be in the old building, and to think back on the many years and members the firehouse has known. “I can remember 70 years ago, driving by at 16, seeing the old firefighters in blue and black in front of the station,” Alvie shared. Seeing the building restored to its original glory has clearly been very rewarding for the older members of the community.

The work at the firehouse has required the labor and donations of dozens of individuals and businesses. EBS has been a help with the floorboards project, while Hanson and Barnard noted Dave Johnson’s assistance in general. “He’s never, ever turned us down. We wouldn’t be this far ahead without his support,” Barnard said.

 

“It’s a total team effort,” Hanson said. “Dick said, ‘If everybody does a little bit, we’ll be able to get it done’ – and we have.”