Today marks the three-year anniversary of the destruction of Hanford’s historic and beloved Art Deco fire station.
If you’ve driven or walked by the corner of Lacey and Kaweah in the last few years, you’ve probably been dismayed to see that a unique piece of Hanford’s historical architectural beauty has given way to a dusty patch of dirt.
City Council only gave the community a couple of months between voting on the demolition and carrying through with it, so alternate ideas, protests and community outreach didn’t have much — if any — time to coalesce. The building was simply gone before many people even realized that City Council had even made the decision.
Seeing as to how the City has offered little in the way of how to best utilize the space that was apparently needed so badly as to necessitate the demolition of an irreplaceable landmark, I thought I’d throw out a few ideas of my own. These are loosely ranked in order of how good I think the ideas are from worst to best.
A parking lot
This is pretty much the least creative and easiest fix. As such, it was one of the only ideas that were bandied about when Council began the conversation. Former Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle suggested the additional parking for the next-door public pool. That’s better than a patch of dirt, I guess.
A new office for the Sentinel
OK, this has about zero chance of happening and is fairly selfish. However, as long as I’m throwing ideas out into the ether of the universe, I think our staff would be happier in a building with that has windows.
A Trader’s Joe’s
This would be a weird spot for a supermarket and the zoning may not even be correct, but Hanford really needs a Trader Joe’s and it would bring in shoppers from other Trader Joe’s-deprived communities like Lemoore, Visalia and Tulare.
A boutique hotel
The Tulare County Courthouse, a once-vibrant and vital Art Deco building built around the same time as our fire station, had been an abandoned shell in downtown Visalia for years — until investors saw the potential of restoring and repurposing it. It’s now the Darling Hotel, an appropriately named and popular resting spot for locals and tourists eager to see the close-by national parks (COVID notwithstanding.) Our fire station could have seen the same fate (albeit on a much smaller scale). While the time has obviously passed for this idea to be executed, Kings County sees an ever-growing number of tourists who come here for the World Ag Expo, World Surf League competitions at the surf ranch and NAS Lemoore air shows and I’m sure some would have liked staying in a unique room.
Aside from a parking lot, another idea thrown out three years ago was to put any funds that could be used to restore the fire station into restoring The Bastille in Civic Park. Three years later, there has been no further momentum on restoring The Bastille. While not exactly a way to improve the fire station’s vacant lot, restoring the Bastille would be a great — and long overdue — consolation prize.
Expand the skateboard park
The opposite side of The Plunge pool hosts Hanford’s skatepark — a place where children and young adults can get some sun, exercise and railgrind things without the threat of being ticketed or arrested. The city could expand it to bookend the pool. Perhaps the new half could be designed for younger skaters looking for a spot to practice and advance their skills safely.
A rotation of food trucks could park in the spot at breakfast, lunch and dinner times daily, offering a new variety of food options to downtown workers who would relish the opportunity to walk downtown to grab something that isn’t from a fast food chain (not that we don’t love our fast food chains from time to time.) Having confounded the council for years, a food truck ordinance was finally implemented last fall. The addition of a permanent spot for food trucks in the downtown area could further that progress.
An art installation
Why not commission a piece of art that celebrates the unique charm and rich history of Hanford? The downtown-adjacent space located on a heavily-trafficked intersection would be a great spot for a sculpture or mural celebrating the area’s world-renown agriculture, acknowledgment of the railroad that facilitated its early growth or appreciation for its first responders that sacrifice so much for the city. The latter would be all the more poignant being on the spot of a former fire station.
Those are my ideas. Do you have an idea for a way that spot could serve the community rather than being a nesting ground for mosquitoes every winter? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, let the City Council know what you’d like to see.