Photo from firehouse-8.com
Have you ever walked by a building in the city that in some way captured your imagination, and your heart? And for the rest of the day you wondered about its past, and maybe you even let yourself fantasize about its future and all its possibilities with you at the helm? Well, that is exactly what happened to Teresa Nittolo. Except, she didn’t waste time daydreaming, she just went ahead and bought the building.
Teresa has lived in the Nob Hill neighborhood for 25 years, and owns three adjoining retail spaces, called Belle Cose & Molte Cose, on Polk Street. She often walked by the defunct firehouse and dreamed of renovating and re-purposing it to become a hub of community activity. When she heard it was going up for auction, she seized the opportunity to buy it.
Gorgeous and stately, Firehouse 8 sits at 1648 Pacific Avenue. It was built in 1917, and remained in continuous service until 1980 when it was finally deactivated due to ordered City budget cuts to the Fire Department. It remained in use as the storage facility for the Department’s Toy Program and as a medical supply station until 2006, when it went up for auction. Because it was used minimally for close to 30 years it had deteriorated substantially and was in a pretty serious state of disrepair.
There are a quite a few former San Francisco firehouses scattered throughout the city. Over the years they have been shut down due to budget cuts to the Fire Department, but then have frequently been kept on to service the department in other ways. Eventually some of them end up at the city’s surplus property auction where they are sold off to private individuals.
For the last five years, Teresa and her partner Gavin Jefferies have been breaking their backs and bank accounts to finish construction and open up Firehouse 8 to the public. They’ve replaced rotten planks, put down concrete, fixed old wiring, and put countless dollars into making sure everything is code compliant – we're talking hefty PG&E bills, a very expensive elevator, and new sewage lines. Unfortunately, Firehouse 8 has gone into foreclosure (THEY ONLY HAVE UNTIL MARCH 8th) and Teresa and Gavin need help to hold onto it and bring their big dreams into reality.
They have plans to make Firehouse a multifaceted space that would include a café with outdoor seating, a small but well-curated library, a market-like area of rotating local vendors and artisans, a massive event space upstairs, and a rooftop garden. They are staring down the home stretch and they need their community’s support to get them across the finish line. Their dream is big and has come with even bigger challenges, but it’s wholly committed to bringing people together to create an inspiring story and space.
Help keep the Firehouse 8 Project alive and heading towards success!! Donate funds to the IndieGoGo campaign, or if you can offer your services or support in any other way please email Teresa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos by Linda Forssman, unless otherwise noted.