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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Halts Demolition of Historic MN Firehouse

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) - A Victorian-style firehouse that is the oldest public building in St. Paul is safe from demolition, for now, thanks to a last-minute restraining order.

Numerous neighborhood and nonprofit groups received good news Monday as Ramsey County, Minn., Judge Margaret Marrinan granted a temporary restraining order against the Hope Engine Company No. 3's owner, BK 200 Grand LLC, which intended to demolish the firehouse.

"As a historical resource, Hope Engine is irreplaceable," the groups claimed in a March 18 complaint. "If the defendant is allowed to proceed with the planned demolition, part of St. Paul's and Minnesota's historic legacy will be lost forever, and the public, including Plaintiffs and their members, will suffer irreparable harm and be without remedy at law."

The firehouse, built in 1871-72, is the last station standing that served the city's all-volunteer fire unit, which responded to emergencies "using horse-drawn equipment," according to the lawsuit.

This qualifies the building for protection under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), which allows petitioners, acting "in the name of the State of Minnesota," to obtain relief from destruction or harm to historical resources, the groups said.

The Victorian-style firehouse is the city's oldest public building in its original location, the complaint states, and has been recognized and recommended for recognition by local and national historic preservation bodies.

But that didn't stop BK from applying for a demolition permit, which the city was set to grant Monday absent outside intervention, the lawsuit claims. Local news reports indicate the company intended to build a hotel in its place.

"There are feasible and prudent alternatives to the destruction of Hope Engine," the petitioners claim. "Numerous historic fire stations in the Twin Cities have been successfully repurposed to uses ranging from restaurants to offices to private residences."

Monday's restraining order noted that the neighborhood and nonprofit groups had been unable to serve BK, but were themselves present via attorney Richard Duncan of Minneapolis-based Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.

Marrinan scheduled a hearing for April 4 on a temporary injunction.

The petitioners include the Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association, Historic Irvine Park Association, Historic St. Paul Corporation and West 7th Fort Road Federation/District 9 Council.

Updates on the case have been posted to the Saving Old Saint Paul Facebook page, including a call to gather at the fire station on Sunday, March 20, for a rally.

A voicemail left with Mark Fangmeier, the listed contact on the Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association's website, was not immediately returned.

BK could not be reached for comment.

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