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How to Move a 1920s Fire Hall

Jul 5, 2021

image of Fire Hall preparation

This view from Commissioners Street, just east of Cherry Street, has already changed dramatically. It's about to change again as we prepare to move this building into the future River Park.

By: Kate Etcher

When we finish Port Lands Flood Protection in 2024, the Port Lands will have been transformed from post-industrial lot to parks surrounding a new river. The new river will flow south from Don Roadway and Lake Shore, then west along Commissioners Street.

Many buildings along Commissioners have been demolished, like this metal works facility formerly at 130 Commissioners. But the Fire Hall at the corner of Commissioners and Cherry Street is being preserved.

 

What is Fire Hall 30 and why are we saving it?

Built in the 1920s, Fire Hall 30 was a working fire station until 1980. It was then used by the Toronto Firefighter’s Association until 2015 when they moved and sold the building. The hall was repurposed and became home to a number of small businesses. Because the City designated this as a heritage structure, it’s being preserved as part of the future Villiers Island community. To read more about how heritage structures are considered as part of this neighbourhood plan, read here.

To save the fire hall, we’ll have to move it.

Read more about Port Lands Flood Protection.

 

Why does it need to move?

Port Lands Flood Protection will protect 240 hectares of land from flooding. As part of the design for flood protection, we need to raise Commissioners Street by one to two metres and widen the street. The current location of Fire Hall 30 is in the path of the improved road. It will be moved back 78 feet and raised to the new grade in order to preserve the building and allow for work on Commissioners Street.

Read more about Commissioners Street’s new, unique features.

map showing new location of Fire Hall 30 when project complete

 

How do we move the fire hall?

Because the Port Lands were created by filling in a marsh, the soil around the Fire Hall is not very stable. It has a soft, squishy consistency. This means that the building's foundation isn’t strong enough to support its weight while being moved.

image of machine creating rigid inclusions

Step 1

That lack of stability caused by squishy soil needs to be replaced by a solid foundation. We started by drilling holes through the soil and pouring concrete to create150 concrete columns. These will support the weight of the building while crews prepare it for the move. The foundation has already been built at the Fire Hall’s new location using this same method.

Watch this brief video that shows how these concrete columns (called rigid inclusions) are installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

image of box cribbing supporting a house

Step 2

After rigid inclusions are placed beside the building, temporary box cribbing is placed with the help of hydraulic jacks. The hydraulic jacks are attached to a machine that raises each jack the same amount at the same time, keeping the building stable as the cribbing is placed. Cribbing is built by cross stacking wooden blocks, similar to the wood in a log cabin. This forms a vertical rectangle that grows upright as more wood is added and the structure rises.

 

 

 

image of fire hall on steel beams

Step 3

Once the fire hall had been secured on the cribbing, steel beams were placed through the cribbing and secured. These beams were custom made and designed to accommodate the weight of the building’s bricks. Once the beams are placed, the hall can be picked up and moved.

This video shows the similar process of moving a house.

 

 

Will it be a fire hall in 2024?

This relocation brings new purpose to the old Fire Hall 30. In its new location, it will have a front row seat to the action in River Park North. Sitting on the edge of the main entry plaza into the park, the hall will be near one of the new playgrounds and be partly renovated to hold six washrooms.

rendering of future Fire Hall Plaza

MVVA's rendering show how the Fire Hall will look in the entry plaza for River Park once trees have matured.

 

To see more of the Port Lands Flood Protection features, check out the interactive map.

Fire Hall 30 is moving Summer 2021 and Waterfront Toronto will be documenting its journey for later viewing. Follow Rocky @TheRockRipper for construction updates!

 

It took a fantastic team to complete the move. Thank you to:

  • ERA: Heritage architect with Arup (engineer)
  • EllisDon: Construction manager
  • HRI: Heritage Contractor with Facet (engineer)
  • Laurie McCullough Building Moving: Responsible for moving the Fire Hall 
  • MVVA: Primary consultant and landscape architect
  • Geo-Solutions: Rigid installation installer