2016-12-15 / Around Town

Restored Icon Seen as Gateway to Fifth Ward

By Tom Walsh


The "Gateway to the Fifth Ward" begins to take shape at Wellington Square on Lower Thames Street. At left is the iconic Fire Station 6, which is being refurbished to serve as a boutique-style small hotel. At right is a new unit that will serve seasonal and prolonged vacation guests. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) The "Gateway to the Fifth Ward" begins to take shape at Wellington Square on Lower Thames Street. At left is the iconic Fire Station 6, which is being refurbished to serve as a boutique-style small hotel. At right is a new unit that will serve seasonal and prolonged vacation guests. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) Rising impressively high above Wellington Square on Lower Thames Street, what was once Newport Fire Department Hose Company 6 and later a pizza parlor will soon be transformed into a two-building, upscale “luxury residential property for vacation and seasonal rentals.”

“Our plan for this prominent corner in Newport is to enhance the gateway to the Fifth Ward and the scenic drive past King Park,” said Christopher Bicho, president of the Landings Real Estate Group, the Lower Thames Street firm that is redeveloping the property. “We are thrilled to be able to preserve this piece of Newport history and integrate it into our vision for our vacation portfolio here in Newport.”

In less than two weeks of work, a new structure that will sit astride the refurbished fire station has taken shape and will alter the Wellington Square skyline, but without compromising the view of the historic firehouse.

Jay Grover of Cordtsen Design Architecture, the Newport firm that designed the project, said the goal of the new layout was to ensure that the firehouse remained highly visible to those passing on Lower Thames Street, not being engulfed by the second, taller residential building being built on the property.

“Everyone in Newport is familiar with that firehouse,” Grover said. “They love that building.” After a stint as the once-popular Firehouse Pizza, the building was shuttered in 2012. Last August, Bicho’s firm paid $1,000,001 to former owner Rui Reis for the property and gave it a new lease on life.

“The firehouse will pretty much look the same,” Grover said. “The windows will be replaced and will look cleaner and newer.” And, he added, the heavy-set doors at the front of the building will be preserved.

Bicho added that other important firehouse characteristics will remain, including the building’s blue slate roof and the brick fa├žade. All of this, the new owner said, will “aesthetically enhance the local neighborhood of Lower Thames Street.

“That piece of property is so prominent and critical to Lower Thames Street,” Bicho said. “If you take a right you drive down to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. Go straight on Lower Thames and you’re into the Fifth Ward.”

When finished – Bicho hopes to be open for business by July – the firehouse building itself will serve as a five-room guest house. The new building will contain two units for seasonal rentals. Bicho said the project was granted a special use permit by the Newport Zoning Board of Review without controversy.

Bicho’s firm owns several other buildings along Lower Thames Street, as well as other properties on Aquidneck Island. These include the recently opened Newport Inn, formerly the Spring Street Inn, at 353 Spring St., and the East Island Reserve at 985 East Main Road in Middletown.

Newport’s Station 6 dates back to at least the mid-1800s, when fires were fought by firefighters riding on horse-drawn carriages to reach city blazes.

“The building was only used as a firehouse for about 30 years,” Bicho said. “After that it became useless with the coming of motorized fire engines.” Today, it is impossible to imagine a large ladder truck coming and going through the front doors of Station 6.

By the 1930s, the property included a large lookout tower that could be used to check around the city for fires. “But that came down during the 1938 hurricane,” Bicho reported.

Today, Bicho hopes to return the firehouse to its former appearance when it was still a working fire station. “I want to reset everything, so that it will look as it did in 1868.”

Architect Grover added, “A lot of people were probably worried that they would see a familiar site changed. But we really wanted to preserve the view of the firehouse. That was the main goal. And we also wanted to preserve the integrity of the site.”

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