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Demolition signals beginning of a new era

The old library and one time fire department building at 43 W. Cherry was torn down Tuesday. Post photo by J. Reed.


By Judy Reed

This photo shows the original firehouse on the site at 43 W. Cherry, which was later shared with the library. Photo courtesy of the Cedar Springs Historical Society.

Since early on in Cedar Springs history, the property at 43 W. Cherry (the NE corner of Cherry and Second Street) has been the site of a building that housed either the Cedar Springs Fire Department, or the Cedar Springs Public Library, and sometimes both at the same time. 

On Tuesday morning, July 30, the latest building to inhabit the site (built in the early 1950s) was torn down to make way for the next step in the Fire Department’s history.

The property was the site of the city’s first firehouse, built in 1874. At some point, the jail was moved to the second floor of the firehouse, with three cellblocks, where vagrants sometimes stayed and those who imbibed a little too freely spent the night.

In 1941, the library was looking for a new home, and supporters approached the council about using the jail part of the firehouse. The council gave their approval, and the jail cells were removed to make room for the library. That was the first instance of the two entities sharing the same building.

The library and fire department moved out 11 years later, so that the old building could be torn down and a new one built, in 1952. Current Fire Chief Marty Fraser told the Post that when he joined the department in the early 1970s, the fire department occupied the west side of the building. The fire department moved out of the building around 1980 and into the building they have today on W. Maple Street. The library moved out of the building two years ago and into the brand new building they now inhabit at the corner of Main and Maple, which is ironically, next to the firehouse.

The library outgrew the old building. And the fire department has done the same. The firehouse is no longer big enough for their equipment, and there are certain codes they cannot meet. City residents passed a bond proposal last fall to build a new fire station—on the site that includes the city lots at 43 W. Cherry and the one behind it where the old community building once stood on the SE corner of Elm and Second. So the cycle has now come full circle. 

The east side of the building which was just demolished at 43 W. Cherry with its beautiful lilies.

Residents have fond memories of the old library building and the events that took place there. Some have questioned why wasn’t it repurposed? City Manager Mike Womack explained the reasoning behind the decision. 

“There are a number of reasons why the old library building was not repurposed indefinitely into the future (keeping in mind that it has served as a meeting location for firefighters and other city groups since it closed as an active library). Bringing it up to code and the costs associated with that are a large reason but the primary reason was because of the proposed location of the new fire station driveway, parking lot and the underground storm water storage required on location. The new fire station will have garage doors on both the north and south side of the building, which will enable those large fire trucks to drive through the building instead of having to back into the building. The driveway required to do that goes through the area formerly occupied by the old library building. Also, the City was cognizant of removing the public parking provided for in that old library parking lot and wanted to make sure that the new fire station would feature a small public parking area (to make up for some of what was lost) that also takes up space where the old building was located. Finally, as I stated previously, the City is required to maintain storm water detention that will be located underneath where the old library building sat.

Site plan for the new fire station to be built in 2020.

“The City Council and the firefighters both felt very strongly that the fire station should remain in the downtown area if at all possible. This area was one of the few spots that could fit such a large building and unfortunately, the old building being removed was one of those compromises that had to be made to accommodate the new building…it is the Library Organization and the Fire Department that are the important things and they will be as special and important to Cedar Springs in their new buildings.”

Construction on the new fire station is expected to begin in spring of 2020, and finish in the summer. To read more about the new fire station and how it will provide emergency shelter when needed, turn to page 3 and read the City Hall Corner.

Historical information for this story was found in both the Cedar Springs Story by Sue Harrison and Donna DeJonge, and in the Making of a Town—a Historical Journey through Cedar Springs, Michigan 1857-1970 by The Cedar Springs Historical Society. Copies of the book can be bought for $20 at the Cedar Springs Public Library and Cedar Springs Historical Museum.


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