MUSCATINE — After a year of construction, the Hershey Avenue Firehouse, had an open house Thursday. Rachel and Brad Roeth bought the building last year and got to work restoring it to it's early 20th century charm.
"(The research) has probably been the most fun for me," Rachel Roeth said. "It's kind of like being on a treasure hunt. Each new piece of history is like finding buried treasure that's been covered for years."
Brad Roeth explained that it took a long list of contractors to get the building where it is today.
"What we did is we came in and gutted the interior walls that had been built up and the drop ceiling that had been installed to get back to the original structure of the building," Brad Roeth said.
He said that the restoration process began in March of this year.
"We had a lot of odds and ends that we just kind of got finished up," Brad Roeth said. "We got a long list of contractors that helped us, and we thought it would be a fun way to close out the project by thanking the people that worked on it and showcase the building."
The building's construction was first approved back in 1909 by city council. It ceased to be a fire station in the 1940s, when the city consolidated the stations to one central building.
“We’ve restored the old fire doors at the front of the building to closer to how they would have looked," Brad Roeth said. "Over time they got kind of covered up and couldn’t see them. They aren’t functioning fire doors but they have that look to them."
Rachel Roeth explained that she was most surprised to learn that in its day, firehouse's had as much of a social role as a functional one.
"I did not realize how the firehouses were such a social hub for the community back in those days," Rachel Roeth said. "They would have dances and the firehouse would play baseball games against other firehouses."
She said that they would also host parties and dances at the firehouse for the community.
"I just love imagining our building full of people dancing and eating," Rachel Roeth said. "It's just a really fun idea."
Prior to the Roeths elbow grease and after the fire station had ceased its original operation, the space had been used for number of purposes including a tattoo parlor.
The Roeths, who have never owned property or done any kind of historical restoration, needed space for Brad's engineering consulting firm, Watersmith Engineering. Four years ago when the firm began taking clients, they never celebrated its opening.
"I've never had an official opening so I'm kind of putting a few things together with this event," Brad Roeth said. "The office is on the top floor, above the firehouse."
The couple hopes to register the building on the National Register of Historic Places.