Realtor plans to turn this iconic old Saint John fire station into his dream home

·3 min read
A historical photo of the fire station that still stands on Lancaster Avenue in Saint John. (Submitted by Jake Palmer - image credit)
A historical photo of the fire station that still stands on Lancaster Avenue in Saint John. (Submitted by Jake Palmer - image credit)

The New Brunswick housing market is on fire, so it's only fitting for a Saint John Realtor to buy a fire station.

The old fire station on Lancaster Avenue on the city's west side has been a landmark for years. Probably built in the 1930s, the building was first a fire station then a residential home and a rental.

Jake Palmer lived two blocks away from it as a kid, and has always admired it

This year he stopped just admiring and bought the place.

"I'd always tried to sit on one side of the school bus just so I could look at this building as we drove past," Palmer told Information Morning Saint John. "So I've always had a soft spot for this building."

The building stands alone on Lancaster Avenue, and catches commuters' eyes as they drive down Duke Street West because it sits on high ground.

Jake Palmer/Submitted
Jake Palmer/Submitted

Palmer said he knew the past owner, who was renting the apartment on the top floor.

But last year it sat vacant and had water pipe and window problems. Palmer helped weatherproof it, then started seriously talking purchase.

He said he expects to see more people buying mixed use buildings to live in as there aren't enough houses for all the prospective buyers in the city.

"We're seeing a lot of people go for duplexes who normally would have just bought single family just so they can get better rental income and even kind of mixed commercial and residential," he said. "You do see people thinking out of the box for sure."

The views are outstanding. - Jake Palmer, Realtor

He said what appealed to him about it isn't just the look of the building, but its quality.

"They didn't make flimsy fire stations," he said. "It has a lot of space upstairs especially, but a lot of unused space on the main level."

The purchase price was a cool $160,000.

"As crazy as it sounds, to buy a fire station, every time I looked at, I'm like, this place really suits me."

Storied past, lots of work needed

The building has had many lives, and with the passing of time and fading of memories, some have become more like urban legends.

Palmer was told a story of someone operating a coin machine business out of the basement.

The building has also had many owners.

"Over the decades, it's been through a lot of hands," he said.

He said he's considering building a kitchen and living room on the main floor, and having four bedrooms on the top floor, where firemen used to spend their time waiting for a call.

Jake Palmer/Submitted
Jake Palmer/Submitted

Unfortunately, it probably never had a fire pole, Palmer said. But what the building is missing in fun ways to get downstairs, it makes up in views from upstairs.

"The views are outstanding. So you can look right under the Reversing Falls Bridge from the back and from the side, you can look almost right up King Street," Palmer said.

He said the building probably needed a lot of work ten years ago, and as repairs weren't done then, "it has gotten a little bit ugly."

"Especially some of the brickwork. But I mean, that's just the nature of old buildings," he said.

But he has some big plans.

"Ultimately, a rooftop deck, because if the view is good from the top floor, from the roof, it's just breathtaking."

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