How (and why) we bought a firehouse

We’re still slogging away at the fence/carport wrap. It’s officially becoming the project that never ends, which totally inspires renditions of “The Song that Never Ends” in my mind:
This is the build that never ends,
It just goes on and on, my friends,
We started building it, not knowing what it was,
And we’ll continue building it forever just because…

Anyways, a recent realization that our general site needed a little TLC and updating, caused me to read our (very long) “About Us” page. While the story of how we got here seemed like a good one when the blog launched, I thought a more streamlined, up-to-date “Hi. How ya doin?” was in order. Not wanting to lose that story (and assuming that most of you have not read our About Us page), I thought I’d expand and share it in a post.

So without further adieu (for anyone is still reading), here is the story of how and why we came to own a firehouse.

To really understand it, I think it helps to have a little background. When we got married in 2005, we shared the aspirations of any young, Midwestern couples: a house with a yard and a dog. In just a few short months, we bought a great starter home in the Kansas City suburbs. The year is important here, because unbeknownst to us, we were buying at exactly the worst time.

bluespringshouse

A few years passed and we began to realize that we didn’t know ourselves at all when we jumped into this housing purchase. We were not suburb people. We craved the energy and excitement of city life. We started to dream about a loft in downtown Kansas City and even put our house on the market. It was quickly clear that it was not a good time to sell. So we changed course and opted to redo our basement into a true office and meeting space for our burgeoning photography business.

In the ensuing years, the itch to move to the city only intensified. We also started shooting more weddings in St Louis and began to realize that our style stood out (even more) on that side of the state. When it was time for me to look for a new job, I applied to listings in both cities, eventually landing a job that would take us to St Louis.

The next 6 months were totally insane. In October, I moved to St Louis and into my parents’ basement while Aaron stayed behind to try and sell our house. In January, he joined me so we could open our St Louis studio at the peak time to book weddings for the coming year. Eventually our house sold (after a pipe burst in our garage and mere days before we were planning to take it off the market and figure out how to be landlords from afar). We trekked our remaining belongings across the state and stuffed them into my parents’ garage. (I have great parents if you couldn’t tell.) We told ourselves we needed to regroup and wait to rent a place to live, which lasted all of 3 months. We quickly fell in love with a condo in an old parochial school in Benton Park (a neighborhood in South St Louis city). It was much smaller than our suburban house, but we loved the tall ceilings, white walls (which we painted, of course), little patio area, secure parking AND the fact that it was in a converted building.

Foreshadowing? Maybe. We have always loved old buildings and dreamed of owning something unconventional. A cool old factory or maybe our own abandoned school were on the “If we win the lottery” list. Realistically, we knew these were pipe dreams.

Still, we were always on the lookout for the right opportunity. When this foreclosed firehouse hit our radar, my first question was “where is it.” St Louis is SOOO pocketed. Really nice areas butt up to sketchy scenes. In some areas it literally comes down to what block of what street. The firehouse sits a few blocks north of a thriving university and a few blocks west of a popular arts area and right on the edge of the Central West End. It has no immediate neighbors: just a few empty lots, an abandoned house, and a power substation. It faces an elementary school and the streets that flank ours have large, new construction, suburban style homes, which are a contrast to the brick row homes that St. Louis is known for. It’s a bit of a transitional neighborhood, but it’s sandwiched between a lot of great things. Honestly, if the firehouse was a few blocks in any given direction, we probably wouldn’t have bought it. If it was closer to the great stuff, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. If it was closer to the not great stuff, we wouldn’t have felt safe.

The price was another “OMG we can’t pass this up” situation. It was right in the sweet spot of “we’ll save money because we’re not renting a studio and a condo” and “it needs a lot of work, but a lot of it is actually cosmetic” and “we’ll have instant equity.” We learned that lesson that hard way thanks to our experience in KC.

firehouse

Two things kept us (albeit, momentarily) from signing on the dotted line: the amount of work that needed to be done and the sheer size of the building. I totally lucked out in marrying Aaron. He’s incredibly handy, likes working with his hands and he’s very practical. He gave the firehouse a serious inspection at the outset. When we thought about owning an nontraditional space, we knew we would need the major systems to be there (mostly from a cost standpoint). The firehouse ticked all the boxes with working electric, plumbing and HVAC. The building itself was also structurally sound. And there are more than enough finished living spaces for us to use while we make our mark throughout the building. While we have a lot of work ahead of us, most projects are finishings.

Ultimately we decided that we couldn’t pass up on the firehouse because of the abundance of space. We knew we’d never find a perfectly sized live/work space in a cool building on the perfect street in our budget. If we had to compromise on one point, having TOO much space seemed like an easy thing to live with.

So that’s the loooong version of how we got here. Do you have an interesting “how we came to buy our house” story? I’m working on a post about the history of the firehouse, which is a question we are frequently asked.

5 thoughts on “How (and why) we bought a firehouse

  1. What a good story! We kind of did the same thing. The suburban thing and felt a lot missing. We will be traveling the US before settling down in Costa Rica [or so that’s the plan]. I love finding others that embrace an “alternative lifestyle” 🙂

  2. Thanks for commenting on our blog! I’ve been checking out your site and realized that my husband and I (along with millions of others, I’m sure) totally saw your HH episode and thought your space was so cool. Thanks for this backstory on how it came to be yours. I should do a more detailed post about how we found our house – not as dramatic of a story as yours, but I haven’t talked much about it on our blog. But house hunting and buying is always a challenge, I don’t think anyone who’s gone through it thinks it’s easy!

    • Nice! Were you rooting for the firehouse? (I hope so!)
      House hunting and buying is always stressful. I’m glad we don’t have to go through that again anytime soon. I’m sure you feel the same!

  3. Pingback: The new fire pit |

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