On April 10, 1940 Fire Station #7 opened the doors to its new firehouse at 201 Chicon St. in East Austin. Station 7′s territory of fire protection actually dates back to the mid 1880′s. In 1916, when the Austin Fire Department transitioned from a volunteer fire department to a municipal fire department all the fire stations were renumbered several times. Finally, in the early 1920′s the current fire station numbering practice became permanent.
This renumbering has always brought up a difficult question. When do you consider the “birthday”, or date of organization, of a particular fire station when it was renumbered over the years. Let’s use Fire Station 7 as an example. In 1884, East Austin #4 was organized, which was the first volunteer fire company organized on the city’s East Side. In 1905, West Austin #7 was organized, which was Austin’s first fire company organized to the west of town. In addition, 1908 saw the creation of Tenth Ward Fire Company #8. Tenth Ward #8 was the second fire company organized on the East Side. Remember, this is during the horse-drawn era of firefighting when fire station districts were much smaller geographically.
In the early 1920′s, after trying out a few different numbering schemes, settled on the current fire station numbering we use today. At that time East Austin #4 became Fire Station 5, West Austin #7 became Fire Station #4, and Tenth Ward #8 became Fire Station #7. Confused? Well, it is about to get even more confusing. In 1938, Old Central Fire Station #1 (now in the motorized era of firefighting) closed and moved more south and east and current Central Fire Station #1 opened closer to the downtown business district. Station 1′s move had a ripple effect that would occur over the next 20 years. First, in 1940, Old Fire Station 7 closed at 1111 Waller St. (which was originally Tenth Ward #8 built in 1908) and reopened in its current location at 201 Chicon St. Then, in the late 1960′s Old Fire Station 5 located at 1005 Lydia St. (originally East Austin #4 organized in 1884) moved farther east.
Therefore, if you determine the organization date of a particular Fire Station is determined by the time when fire protection first occurred in a particular geographic area then Station 7 dates to 1884. If you determine the “birthday” by the number, meaning the 7th fire company organized then Station 7 dates to 1905 (West Austin #7 date, even though was on the other side of town). Current Station 7 actually splits the territory of East Austin #4 and Tenth Ward #8 so the answers are limitless.
Many of Austin’s older fire stations have similar histories of movement. This might be way too much detail for most people, but for those of us who are interested in documenting the detailed history of a fire department and its stations then these details are very important.