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Firehouse 23 Still Serving the Neighborhood

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, October 24, 2008, at 11:10AM
kid row Ed Fuentes

Downtown gets an all-day skate park tomorrow, as Skate Park Association USA brings in a portable setup as part of the Community Unity Festival, put on by Daniel Taylor and the Corporation for History, Art and Culture. Taylor and his foundation are housed in Historic Firehouse 23, home for the festival.

Kids can skateboard or take lessons on 5th street between Los Angeles and Wall streets from 9am to dusk. The festival also includes bands and dramatic readings. If Taylor gets his way, these festivities would be a more frequent occurrence.

For most of the year, Old Firehouse 23 sits quietly where Skid Row and the Toy District merge – a block away from Gallery Row and behind LAPD's fortress-like Central Division station. On a recent visit, Taylor, who is also the caretaker of the fire station, peeked out the upper window two flights up to say he would be right down.

A bit later, the large doors open and the incoming natural light shows where horse-drawn ladder trucks were kept. Small metal plates are a marker for wheels (spotting the wagon underneath suspended horse harnesses). Wooden cabinets that once held gear still line the walls. Nearby, six covered holes in the ceiling where fire poles once descended.

The alarms have long been removed. It's said the early bells that rang Morse-like Code (designating the location of a fire) were so discernible that veteran horses would know which direction to leave the station.

On the upper floors are rooms, many with their original elegant woodwork. These were once the crew quarters, creation room, offices, kitchen & Chief's Quarters. There were also guest quarters for visiting Captains and Engineers.

It’s the 2nd floor where video and editing equipment are stored from a previous production company; the room can still have light shut out for post-production. A former hayloft was used as an audio studio.

This is what Taylor wants to do next: find a way to make the firehouse more than a place for watch over and be an occasional film location (it was the firehouse interior for Ghostbusters) by making it a creative facility highlighted with historical authenticity.

There is a lot of work to do, but Taylor feels that once the roof is replaced and brought to code, it can also be a location for client parties and fundraising. Struggling along, he has worked the final touches for the Corporation for History, Art & Culture's business plan that will have the facility serve as an outreach community hall for Skid Row and the Historic Core.

"$30,000 is needed for the roof," says Taylor. He's also earmarked what's needed restore a dedication plaque, as well as bringing plumbing up to code.

Taylor wants to see all that in place for 2010, when the firehouse turns 100 years old.

Community Unity Festival / Saturday, October 25, 9am - dusk / 5th between Maple and Los Angeles.

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