We’ve hit an important — and perhaps troubling — milestone in Hanford.  As of Sunday, it has been 1,000 days since Hanford’s historic Old Fire Station was demolished. 

Granted, my count may be a day or two off, as we learned this week that the act of counting is not as simple as it may seem.

On Feb. 13, 2018, I watched the beloved Art Deco fire station get demolished. It was one of my first assignments after becoming a reporter at the Sentinel. Not knowing the full story, I couldn’t understand why a city would want to rid itself of such a beautiful and unique landmark. A thousand days and nearly three years later, I still don’t really get it.

What I understand even less is the lot’s current status.

User Alicat left the following comment on the Sentinel’s original story about the City Council’s decision to destroy the building on Dec. 27, 2017:

“Wow, that's too bad. I know I'd rather see the cool Art Deco building design instead of a parking lot when visiting my old home town.”

Alicat may be a psychic with the power to see the future or she may just have a keen understanding of the failings of local government, we can’t be certain.

The corner of Lacey and Kaweah, where the Old Fire Station once sat, is now just a patch of unsightly dirt, just as it’s been for three years.

So, I suppose Alicat’s worst case scenario wasn’t realized. The city hasn’t been bothered to do anything with the site, much less install a parking lot.

Current councilmen Francisco Ramirez and Martin Devine voted for the swift destruction of the building, as did former councilman Justin Mendes.  From vote to destruction, the whole process took only a couple of months. One wonders why the council had to move so quickly on something like this that the community opposed and yet have dragged their feet for years when it comes to something the community could benefit from – like a food truck ordinance.

At the time of the vote, ideas including a youth rec center and, yes, a parking lot for the neighboring Plunge public pool were thrown out, but nothing stuck. The topic of what to do with the space that was home to the Fire Station since 1939 was soon abandoned altogether.

Why destroy the building immediately — giving the community no time to come up with a plan to save it – just to let the land sit idle for so long? Visalia’s once-empty Art Deco court building has since been repurposed into the beautiful and popular Darling Hotel. 

For context, here are some things that were completed in less than 1,000 days:

  • The recording of what some would call the greatest album of all time, The Beatles’ “Abby Road.” It was recorded in 379 hours between April 16 and Aug. 26, 1969.  
  • The filming of the "greatest film" of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” took only a few months between September and December of 1957.
  • The Hanford Civic Auditorium only took a year or so, beginning in 1923 and reaching completion in 1924.
  • All 102 floors of the Empire State Building were completed in just 11 months.
  • The Eiffel Tower, one of humanity’s great achievements, was completed in a little over two years.
  • America’s involvement in the Great War, which shaped the geopolitical landscape of the world we live in today, was only 584 days.  Happy Armistice Day, by the way!

Here’s hoping that sometime in the next 1,000 days the City Council comes up with an idea — or better yet listens to the ideas of the community — on how to salvage that piece of downtown that’s been turned into a dirt lot. I’m confident we can come up with a loftier goal than a parking lot.

Parker Bowman is the editor of The Hanford Sentinel, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ Parker_THS or send an email to PBowman@HanfordSentinel.com. Email pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com

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