The old Fire Station No. 5 building was demolished over the weekend after the city was unable to find a developer that would relocate the structure away from the future site of FIS’ new headquarters.
Unfortunately, it may not be the last historic fire station in Jacksonville at risk of demolition.
The Jacksonville Fire Museum, built in 1902 as Fire Station No. 3, sits in the path of Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s long-planned redevelopment of the Shipyards property and Metropolitan Park. Several different renderings of Khan’s development have been released over the past few years, but none of them have included the fire museum.
It’s unclear what the city has in mind for the museum, which has been closed indefinitely for repairs for around a decade. The museum’s building was originally one of the first three fire stations built in Jacksonville, housing the city’s first all-Black crew.
After sitting mostly unused since its decommissioning in 1933, the building was converted into a museum in the early ‘80s to honor the history of Jax’s fire department, featuring historic elements such as photos from the Great Fire of 1901 and old restored fire engines. It was relocated to the land adjacent to Met Park in 1993 from its original location at Bay and Catherine streets.
It’s equally unclear when work on the Shipyards project will begin. Development of Lot J at the stadium, which has yet to begin, is set to take place prior to the Shipyards build-out. Environmental cleanup at the site will likely lead to further delays.
But if and when that day comes, what will happen to the fire museum building? Will it be relocated again, or could it meet the same fate as No. 5?
One thing the fire museum has going for it is its historic status. Unlike Fire Station No. 5, Jacksonville Fire Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And while that gives it certain legal protections, it doesn’t explicitly prevent the property owner – in this case, the city – from tearing down the building.
The building has also withstood relocation once before – though a lengthy rehab period was required following its previous move. But while the public hasn’t had access to the building in several years, it’s said to be in poor condition structurally, which could complicate any relocation efforts.
Even the city likely doesn’t know for sure what will be done with the fire museum building when the property it sits on is redeveloped. Hopefully someone – whether it’s the city or a private developer – will step in and pay to relocate and rehabilitate the building, allowing the museum to reopen.
For now, it sits dormant on an otherwise empty lot, waiting for us to remember it exists.