From 1900-1976, the North of Grand neighborhood had its own fire house, then known as Station #12, at 535 40th St.
It’s now home to a private business, but a discreet “12” historic marker signifies that this two-story brick building had another life. For 75 years, this was the site of the neighborhood fire station. The Des Moines Fire Department opened Fire Station #12 in 1901, years before many homes in the neighborhood were built. Jim Mason, former assistant fire chief, said it was a single house, meaning it had one engine or pumper with a three-man crew per shift. This undated photo provide by Mason shows a crew outside the firehouse, looking north with the Alta Casa apartments (built in 1927).
The station closed in 1976 as part of a wave of closures or consolidations throughout Des Moines. On Oct. 18, 1976, Pat Murray, then assistant fire chief, wrote the last daily journal entry for the firehouse: “Station Closed — Men transferred to other stations — New 5 opened.” Since then, the folks at Fire Station #5 have provided emergency assistance.
If not for the work of several people, the building would long ago have been razed. It was Dr. Dennis Lowman and his partners at Oral Surgeons P.C., who purchased the firehouse when others wanted to tear it down to expand their parking. The firehouse sat vacant for over a decade, and the structure began to deteriorate. Around 1990, Dr. Carithers bought the property and spent $500,000 restoring it. In the waiting room today, the original brass fire pole and fire gong remain, as well as an 10-foot-wide arched stained-glass window above the reception desk. Dr. Carithers said the window, found in the attic, was originally in the arch of the front doorway. In 1994, local architect Bryan Shiffler was recognized for rehabilitation of the fire house by the City of Des Moines Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards Commercial/Institutional Exterior Adaptive Reuse.