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NEWS: Midblock fire station on Howland Avenue gets a facelift (Oct. 2020)

November 2nd, 2020 · No Comments

Fire Station 23 once housed steamed-powered, horse-drawn pumpers

“Steamers” refer to the horse-drawn carriages that used water to fight fire in the 1800s. Station 23 (as it was then known) housed this equipment until they were replaced by gasoline-powered fire trucks. While the steamers were used in parades, there is no evidence that they were actually used locally in fire emergencies. COURTESY CITY OF TORONTO ARCHIVES

By Mary An

Major renovations are underway to bring Fire Station 344 on Howland Avenue into the 21st century. Built in 1910, it was originally given the number 23, then re-named in 1999 when Toronto amalgamated. The number 23, however, still sits in stone overlooking the entrance to the building, and this decorative feature will remain in place alongside the building’s entire historic facade. 

First built in 1910, Fire Station 344 (formerly known as 23) is getting renovated. The historic Fire Station No. 23 sign still hangs proudly above the garage untouched. MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

When the station was first built, fire engines were steam-powered and horse-drawn, until equipment advancements became too heavy for the horses to pull. Eventually, the horse-drawn steamers diminished and were replaced by gasoline-fueled engines. Fire Station 23 (now 344) still had horse-drawn steamers that were used in parades over the years, but whether they used them for actual fire emergencies is unknown. 

Project manager Ryan MacNeil says virtually every aspect of the building’s interior, including stairways, kitchens, and bathrooms will be re-built to be brought into compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). 

“The footprint of the building will stay the same. There will be no expansions, just renovations,” MacNeil said. Being a historic structure, the Toronto Historical Association requires the historic character of the building to be preserved. 

While the planned renovations were scheduled to wrap up this September, there were unforeseen obstacles due to the age of the building, delaying the end date to early 2021. In the meantime, Station 344’s crew is carrying out their duties from a temporary home at 339 Queens Quay West.

Tags: Annex · News · History