More than 100 years ago, the town of Polytechnic Heights built a two-story firehouse and city hall on Vaughn Street, directly across Rosedale from Texas Wesleyan.
This summer, the historic building got a makeover to house art classes.
Art professor Kit Hall says the appeal of the space — with its dark wooden ceiling joists, brick walls and original door beam exposed — is sure to inspire students.
"It really adds energy and visual interest," she says. "You can look up to the ceiling and see line and shape. I plan to use this whole building as a teaching tool."
When it was built, the first floor of the 1914 building boasted high ceilings and a dirt floor with a trough in the middle that drained away the muck from the horses that pulled the fire equipment. Upstairs, city officials conducted business.
In the 1930s, the city sold the building, and by the middle of the century it housed Partlow’s Bakery. A few decades later, Texas Wesleyan bought the building and until this year, it was packed to the rafters with old theater props and costumes.
The move from the three buildings that used to house art — Boyd House, Art North and Art Annex — was welcome, Hall notes. Those buildings were improved over the summer and now house The Language Company (TLC) — an organization that provides intensive English training for international students. TLC was moved out of Stella Hall in August, freeing up the space for additional beds in the 1960s-era residence hall.
The old firehouse is attached to the back of the expansive new offices and conference center for the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, a move that places the stairs, elevator and restrooms outside the classroom space. For safety, the exterior door to the conference center and entry into the classrooms have keypad locks.
Hall teaches Beginning Drawing, Human Experience, Human Prospect and Art Appreciation and Professor Peter Colley, who will occupy the second floor when he returns from sabbatical in the spring, teaches Basic Art, Human Experience and Human Prospect.
Hall says she loves seeing non-art majors learn to express themselves visually.
"I like the feel of being surrounded by the art here," she says. "When the student art coats the walls, that excites me, to see their progression."
The newly renovated Polytechnic Firehouse is located next to the new UMC Conference Center. Photo taken Aug. 27, 2015.
Historic Polytechnic Firehouse before renovations.