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Historic building finds new life as a home

Terri and Scott Bargfrede transform Central Fire Station

July 10, 2014

Living in a loft-style residence had long been a dream for Terri and Scott Bargfrede of Webster City. They liked the concept of soaring ceilings and open, comfortable spaces. Terri's inspiration grew when she saw a movie in which the central character converted an old warehouse into a loft.

"We said, 'That's so cool. Let's do that someday.' But we were just never in the right place at the right time," she said.

When Terri and Scott learned the historic brick firehouse on Des Moines Street was for sale, Terri knew her dream was closer to becoming a reality.

Article Photos

Terri and Scott Bargfrede sit in their bedroom seating area. The couple, with help from friends, transformed the old firehouse into a life-style home.

She walked through the two-story building with her sister, Sally Koep. The place was dark and dreary, with lots of small rooms and obviously in need of repairs.

"My sister looked at me and said 'Oh don't do this, Terri,'" she said.

But Terri saw what might be possible. Her vision was already beginning to take shape.

"I just walked around and said, 'Just think what we can do,'" she said.

The firehouse was built in 1912, and was the third fire station in the community.The fire department took up residence in 1913. The city's electric shop shared the south portion of the lower level, and in later the police department and city jail. The north side housed two stalls for the horses that pulled the hose cart to fires, according to former fire chief and local historian Terry Johnston. In 1917, the department purchased its first motorized vehicle.

The Bargfredes took possession of the 100-year-old structure on June 1, 2012. In 23 days, they built an efficiency apartment on the lower level. That's where the couple lived while construction was going on in the rest of the building.

They moved upstairs five months later.

"However, it's a work in progress. We're still doing things," said Terri Bargfrede.

"We wanted to keep more of the brick walls and original elements, but we weren't able to. So we decided to go for efficient and make sure it would last," she said.

While some of the work was handled by subcontractors, the Bargfredes' longtime friends, John and Marcia Hawkins and their son Peter Hawkins stepped in to lead the project.

"Basically, John was our contractor," said Scott.

"He jumps in and said 'we can do this,'" Terri said. The Hawkins family worked full time on the loft project for nearly four months. And that was in addition to working their normal 9 to 5 jobs.

Walls were taken down on the upper level to create open rooms that flow into adjacent spaces. For those unable to navigate the long staircase to the living area, the Bargfredes installed a small elevator to the second floor.

The staircase leads to a large efficient kitchen with curved granite countertops and bar stools that create the perfect spot for cozy dinners or conversation during meal preparation. A pantry was added next to the kitchen to offer additional storage space. New windows provide natural light for the kitchen, dining area and the adjacent living room space. The comfortable seating area features a fireplace flanked on either side by two fountains.

Directly off the kitchen and east of the living room is the master bedroom suite. The large, open room affords a comfy seating area, large walk-in closet and bathroom with shower.

When guests arrive, they find an inviting guest suite with a full bath.

And for more guests, the downstairs efficiency apartment provides warm and cheerful accommodations. It is there those guests will see another little piece of history. At one time, the police department was located in the south part of the lower level. The large iron cell door is still in place in the bedroom.

A garden room at the back of the loft on the second floor is located in what was once the hay mow for the firehouse horses. The space also features one of the old firehouse's original brick walls.

The Bargfredes plan to install a fireplace in the room to compliment the comfy seating area, dining table and wet bar. The room, as its name implies, also features natural elements and plants. In fact, Terri arranged to have a large tree brought in and positioned in the room before the new windows were installed.

Glass doors open out onto a small patio which gives the Bargfredes a view of the city and a bit of outdoor space.

Living downtown, instead of a quiet residential neighborhood, brings challenges and benefits, the couple noted.

"We've been such yard people at all of our houses. We've planted flowers at every place we've had," Terri said.

"But we're into our second summer and we really haven't missed it," she said.

Living downtown also means they are in walking distance of many of their favorite spots.

"Scott is just a few steps from work. I walk to the coffee shop or to the Emporium to get something to eat. It's actually very convenient."

Ideally, the couple would like to see others renovate historic buildings in the community into loft spaces.

"We hope that the downtown will continue to progress and grow. It would be fun to have some outside restaurants and more shops," she said.

Through the renovation project, the couple learned that the firehouse was an important piece of Webster City history to many people in the community. A photograph of the building from 1913, a gift from Terry and Gloria Johnston, hangs prominently in the living room.

"Terry told us that it warms his heart to have the building preserved. There have been so many people who have told us they were glad we bought the building," she said.



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