The Firehouse Story: Part 1
I’m going to ask you to do something challenging. Close your eyes and think back, way back, to July 2019 BC (that’s Before Covid). Can you even remember 2019? The pandemic warped our sense of time. It made 2 years and 8 months ago feel like 10 years ago.
Anyway, that was when my dream of opening a coworking space first started to solidify. I'm passionate about this community and creating hospitable spaces for people, so when Cristy Cross (a local photographer) posted on Facebook that she was looking for a warehouse-style studio space, it got my attention. I called Katharine Fly, a realtor friend who loves old buildings, and she started looking around. A couple days later, the three of us went to look at what is now Firehouse Workspace. You hear people say that their life flashed before their eyes… I guess we could say my future flashed before mine.
By September 2019, I was writing a business plan, and by late February 2020 I had closed on the building. The first week of March I chose Arise Construction as my contractor, started branding the space, and was planning to open in the fall. And you all know what happened the second week of March.
Yep, we shut down. But only for two week to flatten the curve.
So we’ve gone from July 2019 to March 2020. While we wait for those two weeks to go by, let me tell you a little bit about Firehouse Workspace's business model.
Firehouse Workspace is a coworking space. If you don’t know what that is, the best way to describe it is to say it’s like a gym membership for working. We have four private offices, eight dedicated desks (meaning that desk belongs to one person all the time), and 12 hot desks, which function just like the tables at your local coffee shop. You walk in and take a seat wherever there’s a vacancy.
When you walk in the front door of Firehouse Workspace, you’ll (soon) be in the second location of Blackwater Coffee, my favorite local coffee shop. Go through the set of double doors directly in front of you and you’ll be in the coworking space. We also have a kitchen, conference room, podcast/small meeting room, and, of course, the photography studio.
Ok, those first two weeks passed pretty quickly (compared to the rest of 2020), so let’s get back to March.
Now, I know patience is a virtue, but it's not my virtue. Once I make a decision, I tend to plow ahead and expect everyone else to jump on my timeline. The pandemic definitely slowed things down to a glacial pace, at least at first, and buying an historic building comes with its own set of challenges.
In early May, Will, an architect for New Mexico MainStreet, came to look at the building and gave me the best advice I’ve received during this Grand Adventure. He said,
"Don’t fight the building."
So I haven’t. I’ve tried to just love her instead, and that has worked remarkably well.
She was actually the first firehouse and city hall in Clovis, but by the 21st century, little remained of her original look and feel. I bought the building from three sisters who had inherited it from their father. As luck would have it, they had been holding on to it in the hope of finding a buyer whose plan for the building would benefit the community.
The deal was easy to make, and I quickly started on demolition, along with researching the history of the building. The Firehouse and City Hall is a two-story building built in 1908.
It was built one block east of the commercial district (Main St.), because municipal buildings were considered utilitarian, and the thinking was that they shouldn't take up valuable commercial space. A little different than the outlook today!
City Hall was two rooms on one side of the building, and the Firehouse was housed on the other side, with the firemen’s sleeping quarters upstairs. In the early 1900s, fire “trucks” were horse-drawn wagons with a hose reel in the back, so this side had two sets of stable doors.
The building was constructed following several big fires in Clovis (Santa Fe New Mexican actually had a repeated blurb called "Clovis Has its Weekly Fire"), and local officials were concerned about future buildings being decimated by fire, so the firehouse and city hall was constructed of double-brick walls, meaning that if you remove a brick from the exterior of the building, you will find a second one behind it.
In the late 30’s or early 40’s, an addition was made to the south side of the building. I don’t know much about this part, but based on this picture, I think it might have been a Buick dealership. It was definitely Montgomery Ward Tire Store at one point.
Stay tuned for The Firehouse Story: Part 2
Want to learn more about the history of the building? It's here.