PaperCity Magazine

October 2017- Houston

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76 the couple had become empty nesters. "Our house in West University was a great place to raise kids," Whitlock says, "but it was time to change things up." Renovations had already started on the fire station when they discovered six nearby Victorian houses slated for imminent demolition, as a developer made way for townhouses. They rescued those, too, and moved them onto the property. (The small houses that came with the property had neither architectural nor historic significance and were razed.) "It was incredibly serendipitous, the way it all happened," says Meppelink, who had been keeping an eye on the Victorians' status for two years, hoping someone would buy them. Commissioned by Texas State Governor Francis Lubbock in 1861, the ornate shotgun-style Victorians were certainly worthy of preservation. "That set us off on this extraordinary odyssey," Whitlock says. Built in 1910, Fire Station No. 2 served Houston at the dawn of a modern era, when horse-drawn carriages were starting to give way to motorcars. There's evidence that one side of the station accommodated horse-drawn engines. An old-time firefighter who stopped by during renovations pointed out score marks on the concrete floor, which were designed to give traction to scrambling hooves as alarm bells rang. There are also remnants of old pegs on the columns, where harnesses and other tack were hung. The station was decommissioned in the 1980s and fell into disrepair during the decades that followed. It took two years to bring it back to life, and at the same time, all six Victorian houses were being renovated. It was a massive undertaking. Meppelink, who owns Metalab Architecture, collaborated on the project with his wife, Marisa Janusz, of Janusz Design. The Fire Museum of Houston was a tremendous resource, he says, providing archives and historic photographs. Almost all of the building's original materials were retained, including the exterior load-bearing, 17-inch brick walls; staircase with original metal braces; worn plaster walls; and patinated bead-board ceilings. The brass fire poles, which allowed firemen to slide quickly from the second floor to the first, were missing. They were replaced with a pair purchased from an early-1900s fire station in Boston that was undergoing renovation. A new concrete-slab floor was poured, and large bay doors were rebuilt, patterned after doors from the Fire Museum. While the downstairs is designed to be more of a public venue, living quarters were created on the second floor, including bedrooms, kitchen, library, and living and dining rooms. "We wanted the area where we live to be modern and clean," Whitlock says. "So we hired an interior designer to help us figure out how to create a home out of such a cavernous space." Enter Martha Finger of Martha Baxter Interior Design. With 20-foot ceilings on the first floor and 10-foot ceilings upstairs, antique lighting fixtures had The original beadboard ceilings downstairs are 20 feet high. Vintage table and chairs, reupholstered in fire-engine red. The dog, Osso, was found abandoned on the property and adopted. In the entry, original beadboard ceilings and patinated plaster walls. Vintage light pendant, circa 1910. Custom bench.

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