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Firehouse love letters

The front of Hanford's old firehouse is adorned with love letters from he community while the back was being demolished Tuesday. 

Parker Bowman, Hanford Sentinel

No one in the history of the world has ever said, “Yeah, I really like that town. They had really nice parking lots.”

OK, someone may have said that about Chicago’s Wrigleyville, where I once drove around for four hours looking for a spot.

But generally, no one is going to remember or come back to your town if the best it can boast is sufficient parking.

Yet, that’s exactly what the Hanford City Council seems to want — or, at least the three-fifths of the Council that voted to demolish one of Hanford’s most beautiful, history-rich buildings and put up a parking lot.

Didn’t Joni Mitchell warn us about this kind of thing?

The old fire station, on the corner of Lacey Boulevard and Kaweah Street, is currently being demolished — and they’re using bulldozers to do it.

This has happened despite the pleas of citizens, out-numbered council members and the efforts of groups like Heart of Hanford.

A handful of dedicated local artists have been surrounding the building working their hardest to paint and preserve the building’s likeness as quickly as possible with the little time it had left.

I realize I’m new to Hanford, having only worked here a few months, but I like the city and the thing I like most about it — besides the Chicken Shack, of course — is the fact that it’s beautiful.

It seems like every other building in town is eye-catching and I constantly find myself swerving in my lane, distracted by some building or house I hadn’t noticed before while driving. A walk downtown on my lunch break is a feast for my eyes as much as the Hot Diggity Dog Hut is for my tummy.

Each building seems to tell an old story that I want to hear.

I’ve become fond of Castle Square. There’s a line of rustic houses on North 10th Avenue that I love. I can’t wait to stay at the Irwin Street Inn, and those historic water towers downtown are visually interesting, providing a beautiful anachronistic juxtaposition to the modernity of the Comfort Inn they face across the train tracks on West Sixth Street.

And if anyone decides to tear down the KIGS radio station east of town, I’ll be forced to chain myself to it, the way hippies used to do with redwood trees.

Too many towns in the Valley, and around America surely, have lost this beauty and history. Too many towns look and feel like giant, ugly strip malls. And Hanford doesn’t — for now.

What once was a beautiful pre-World War II building that served as both art and a practical structure will now be a parking lot, offering maybe 20 or 30 new spots by my (possibly inaccurate, but probably generous) estimation.

And what are the Vegas odds on those parking spaces, which will benefit The Plunge swimming pool, being paved by the summer? Or even next summer?

Hanford City Manager Darrell Pyle said in December that the demolition would also provide the police department better visual access to patrol activities at the skate park, which could be construed as saying that skateboarding youths are looked at as criminals in Hanford.

Granted, the $2.2 million price tag to bring the firehouse up-to-date is hefty, but given more than two months to figure it out, I am confident that the people of Hanford could have come up with a plan.

Some might have even suggested that Hanford fall in line with the voters of California and allow a marijuana dispensary to take up residence in the building, provided a chunk of the tax revenue go to the cost of fixing the place up.

Undoubtedly, history buffs and art deco fans across the nation would have donated to a Go Fund Me campaign.

Councilman Justin Mendes said in December that he thinks the focus for any type of crowd investing should be one of the other city-owned buildings, like the Bastille or the Old Courthouse, which need major renovations, to which Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen agreed. This, of course, is a subtle way to say that the Bastille or Old Courthouse are next to go.

Though, that may just be wild speculation from a conspiracy-minded journalist, written as a means of humorous hyperbole.

But only time will tell.

Parker Bowman is a staff reporter for the Hanford Sentinel, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ Parker_THS.  “Valley Vertigo,” named after the classic Hitchcock movie about obsession, is a weekly column about pop culture obsessions and anything else that may pop up throughout the week. 

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