Firehouse Theatre

Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve been snap-happy with my camera as I enjoy a slow return to ‘normal’.  I’m been busy spending time cruising the streets of “Old Town” Toronto in the cold, continuing to trace the city’s history by its old buildings.

One of my favourite recent finds is a former fire station.  I was immediately captivated by the unusual design.

alumnae-theatre

The windows of this unusual tower appear to give an expression of surprise

Apparently, the tower was used to hang the hoses to dry.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never given any thought to fire hoses having to be dried after they’ve been used, which led me down a rabbit hole researching what’s done today.

Guess what? …. hose towers are still being used!!!  Who knew that those clock towers that are often seen with older firehalls aren’t just decorative?  However, hanging hoses in a tower isn’t the only method of drying hose … drier racks are now commonly in use.

Not only do hoses need to be dried after use, but they also need to be cleaned first.  In my research, I even found fire hose cleaning procedures.  Is there anything that can’t be found online?

This particular fire station was built in 1905 and – as was common for old buildings in this city in the 1970s – was targeted for demolition.  The building was ultimately saved and re-invented as a small theatre.  The large windows in the front have replaced the doors formerly used by the fire trucks.

alumnae-theatre-3

Berkeley St Old Firehall #4 – now the Alumnae Theatre

The story of the Alumnae Theatre is, in itself, an interesting piece of history.  It is the oldest theatre society still in operation in Toronto.   It was founded in 1919 by women graduates from the University of Toronto.

In an interesting twist of reversed roles, all the actors in their performances, regardless of the part, were women.  In the 1920s they began to allow male actors in their performances, but even as of today, the society is still lead entirely by women.

It’s not very often I encounter a piece of history which features women as the protagonists … finally allowing men to join them … but still maintaining control after all these decades.

It’s an interesting building, an interesting theatre group, and a great combination together.

Alumnae Theatre2.jpg

Street art in front of the Alumnae Theatre

 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
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79 Responses to Firehouse Theatre

  1. Pingback: Discovering More Yorkville | My Life Lived Full

  2. RuthsArc says:

    Such a fascinating post. Many thanks Joanne.

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  3. Margie in Toronto says:

    The Rom’s Distillery walk goes by that area and includes the firehouse as part of their narrative – the one that they do through Yorkville includes the firehouse on Yorkville Avenue itself – and it’s still in use!
    Just down the street from that firehall you visited is the old Gas Works bldg. and down what just looks like a driveway for delivery trucks is a beautiful “secret garden” behind a wrought iron fence – it would be a beautiful photograph for your collection.

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Thanks Margie – you’ve obviously been on many of these tours around Old Town Toronto and I hope to finally go on a few of them this summer.
      I still have many places on my list to visit. I have now finalized the list I found on Wikipedia and there are almost 870 heritage bldgs on it, of which I’ve visited only 159. I’ll be busy for a while 😉
      The fire hall in Yorkville is also on that list. I’m particularly interested in it because it includes a 5 storey clock tower … and clocks always capture my attention 🙂

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  4. mickscogs says:

    On another subject, but Toronto related, did you know about ‘The great Toronto mirage of 1894’? I’ve been a bit obsessed with the technical details of far distance viewing lately when I noticed this article. http://www.blogto.com/city/2013/10/the_great_toronto_mirage_of_1894/
    Fascinating.

    Like

  5. joey says:

    It’s a beautiful building. I had no idea about the fire hose things, either. I wonder if they take turns like dishes? “I cleaned the hoses yesterday,” and whatnot. Makes you wonder what else we don’t wonder about when we wonder…

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Haha! I love your last sentence .. I do wonder about the stuff I don’t wonder about!
      My brother (the retired Fire Chief) told me that cleaning and rolling hoses is the first thing a new recruit is taught. I can take a guess at who does most of the rolling 😉

      He once told me (in his tendency to ‘slightly’ exaggerate) that they would spend 10 minutes to put out a fire and then 2 hours to roll up hoses. Again … another thing I never thought of before.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. jan says:

    I had no idea hoses needed to dry out – but I suppose it stops them from freezing in the winter.

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  7. What a great post! I applaud all our firefighters for their willingness to go into the fire as we all try to exit, and I’ve always loved their strong buildings. This is a mighty handsome building, and it is so good that it is being repurposed. Love the wall art as well. Glad you’re back to normal. 🙂

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  8. I like it when you are “snap happy”

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  9. Heyjude says:

    Fascinating and I love how your curiosity leads us from one thing to another. Such a pretty building and yes, those windows do give it a look of surprise! Nice to see you out and about again 🙂

    Like

  10. Lynn says:

    What an interesting post Joanne! With all of your wonderful fact finding, I see a business in your future of city tours!

    Like

  11. Now I’m wondering how and where our little neighborhood station dries its fire hoses! Maybe when I see a pair of firemen shopping at the market I’ll be brave and ask them where they dry them and if they still need to? I’m imagining huge tumble dryers in the firehouse for them. 🙂

    The building is lovely, and I love that red brick.

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      It’s one of those odd things that when you start thinking about it, you wonder.
      I ended up talking to my brother yesterday who retired as Fire Chief of our hometown. He confirmed they have a fire tower and hang their hoses to dry. I was dumbfounded!! … I never noticed they had a tower.
      Now of course the next time I’m home, I’ll need to visit the fire hall and hopefully see for myself!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m picturing the neighborhood station and I can’t see a tower, and I’ve had a peek into the backyard; they park a few cars there, and have a basketball hoop, but it’s kept open for the most part so the trucks can pull through. I didn’t notice long tables or hoses the few times I’ve peeked inside the yard when passing it.

        Next time I’m at the library I’ll have walk next door to the firehouse and see if I can spot where they dry the hoses. 🙂 It’s a curious thing to think about in the 21st century isn’t it.

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  12. You are just full of amazing facts, Joanne. I didn’t know hoses needed to dry either, but it makes sense if I think about it. I love it when old buildings find new life and this firehouse certainly did. That’s a cool story all by itself. Great post and glad to hear you are out and about!

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      This was one of those facts that’s so obvious when you hear it, but I, for one, never gave it any thought before. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a firehall quite the same way again … especially if they still have a tower for drying hose 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow! What a great discovery! The building is beautiful, and the history of the fire station and the theater is so intriguing. Your posts are making me move Toronto up on my list of places I really need to go.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      This exercise of exploring my own city has taught me that there is an abundance of interesting things to explore and research virtually everywhere. It’s changed how I look at things … even familiar routes.

      Like

  14. Susanne says:

    I didn’t know hoses had to be dried. Makes sense if you think about it. The tower “hat” makes me think of Quaker hats for some reason. Somehow the face of surprise suits both the building’s purposes in life – “OMG – A FIRE!” and “OMG, what a great performance!”

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      LOL!! I hadn’t thought of a tag line for the expression, but you nailed it!! 😀

      … and yes, the tower ‘hat’ is what I find most interesting about the tower. It adds to the whole tower-as-a-face perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Totally stunning building and fascinating history to go with it! Keep ‘ em coming! Thanks for doing all the reasearch and providing such interesting morsels of info…

    Haha love the surprised expression. Would not have noticed that.

    Peta

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  16. Sue Slaght says:

    Well I can say I have never thought about the drying of fire hoses. I love that sweet tower and the thought of years of drip drying going on. Fabulous about the women finally allowing men in. 🙂

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  17. Tippy Gnu says:

    Unusual that a building once used for hanging long hoses, is now run by women.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. reocochran says:

    Joanne, I like to know more about what I find to post about and used to go to the library right after work and spend up to two hours there (daily!). My stomach would growl and eventually I would go home and cook dinner.
    My current posts are such examples of minimalism!
    I like the building a lot because of the tower, the windows in an amazed “Oh!” look. I like the cream colored border along the roof outline and the checkered cream blocks, too.
    The drying details of the firehouses really was cool and I must tell my grandsons who already love our firehouses (too new to be blog worthy, though.) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. nrhatch says:

    Good find, snap and share, Joanne! Fun little nuggets to digest.

    Like

  20. Su Leslie says:

    So glad you are enjoying your city — with a camera so the rest of us can enjoy it too. I love the idea of a theatre where women played all the roles!

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  21. bikerchick57 says:

    I love the old red brick firehouse turned women’s theater. That was a great find and I like the fire hose research. I never thought about the hoses having to dry.

    I envision a part two of this post…After you’ve attended a show at the theater.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Funny – I was on their website last night curious about the type of plays they perform. I’m wondering if it might be a little too high-brow for my taste, but no question they are now on my radar. I didn’t know this little theatre existed and yes, I’m curious 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Joanne, your journey down the rabbit hole/s was greatly appreciated. I really enjoyed the post and I’m happy the building has seen new life. Maybe that’s why it looks so surprised! I just read “The Fourth Angel” by Suzanne Chazin, about a New York City female firefighter-turned-fire marshal and HTA fires, the latter something that took my into a rabbit hole of my own. High Temperature Accelerant Fires are very unusual and very dangerous (http://carmanfireinvestigations.com/dl/(Carman%26Associates)%20-%20High%20Temperature%20Accelerant%20Fires.pdf.)

    Now back to watching the hockey game. :-0

    janet

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  23. That firehouse is definitely unusual, mostly owing to that structure at the end. It does seem somewhat human!

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  24. Dan Antion says:

    I love this post, Joanne. I love fire houses and I really like the “expression” on this one. I did know about the drying towers and there seems to be a debate as to which way of drying is better. I am so glad they saved this building and found a new use for it. Thanks for sharing it, and for the research you did – it;s my favorite kind of post 🙂

    Like

  25. You sure managed to pack a lot of information into this post! Besides the fire station info that’s a great story about the women alumnae and their women’s only theatre!

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  26. You’ve made some amazing discoveries. Love this. Keep up the great work.Thank you for sharing. ❤ 🙂

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  27. Norm 2.0 says:

    I would have thought they’d use compressed air to dry out the hoses today, but regardless of the technique, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that the general public doesn’t know about. Lot’s of mundane, boring, non-glamour stuff. And you know what? Those are the kinds of rabbit holes I can get lost in too! Fascinating stuff isn’t it?

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I spent far too long in the rabbit hole reading about fire hoses! The way I understand it, there are rubber hoses and canvas hoses. The canvas hoses are much cheaper and they have to be cleaned and dried or they will mold and rot.

      Earlier this evening, I ended up talking to my brother who retired as Fire Chief of my home town. He confirmed that they have a tower at the fire hall where they hang the hoses to dry!! The next time I’m home, I’m going to have to go to the fire hall and see that! I have ZERO recollection of a tower at the fire hall … the bizarre little things we manage to trip over in our travels 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Donna says:

    Kindred spirits unite. I adore anyone who willing jumps into a “a rabbit hole of research”. Very interesting post and great photos!

    Like

  29. When you first mentioned hose drying in the tower, I pictured the hoses being stretched and threaded in and out of those windows/holes towards the top of the brick… kind of like worms. Now I’m guessing that wasn’t the way the dried them… they probably just hung them from hooks toward the top of the tower. Duh (but I like the worm visual better). I’m glad that your return to “normal” includes cruising your fascinating city and taking pictures!

    Like

  30. So pleased that someone saw fit to preserve and re-purpose this building.

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  31. So fascinating! And great pics, too!
    Once you noted the “surprise” expression, that’s all I could see. I love how you view the world – it gives me more to see, too 🙂

    Like

  32. Phil Ryan says:

    Oh wow, that’s brilliant!
    And I thought fire stations had towers to practice ladder climbing and height acclimatisation. Who wants to be rescued by a firefighter with a nose bleed type of thing 🙂

    Like

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