Normally, one doesn’t wish to encounter the words “hotel” and “fire” in proximity. But Fire Station One, the Roanoke, Virginia, historic firehouse transformed into a just-opened boutique hotel, is the sort of warmly glowing spot you might actually want to run into.
Enter the red brick building under a broadly arched bay opening on Church Street and find yourself in what appears to be a suspiciously well-furnished lobby. It is that, and also a spacious showroom for Txtur, the local furniture maker that gamely took on the sidewalk-to-bell tower rehab of the 1907 Georgian Revival structure that served Roanoke for a century before its decommissioning in 2007. (Additional historical bona fides include presidential visits by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama.)
Upstairs, former offices and storage spaces now provide seven guest rooms richly appointed with local artwork and Txtur’s handcrafted, midcentury-inspired wares. Under the guidance of interior designer Lisa Sloboda, each room reflects a theme, from the clubby feel of the maple-paneled chief’s office to an airy hideaway that suggests a country cottage. (Rates start at $225 a night.) A central, oversized bunkroom where firemen of yore slumbered has been remade into an event space, ringed by twenty-five original pinewood lockers.
Indeed, while all the luxe details demanded by boutique hotel lovers (subway tile bathrooms, dramatic light fixtures) are on hand, great pains have been taken to preserve original elements such as pressed-tin ceilings, now shown off with a pearlescent glaze, and deep-well skylights. One guest room features a pulley that lowered hay to the horses needed to pull fire wagons in the station’s early years. Back down in the stable-turned-showroom, scout for dents in the brick walls worn by those horses’ habit of licking salt out of the mortar. Oh, you want brass fire poles? See if you can find all five, though their floor holes have been wisely sealed to deter any liability-incurring rapid descents.
“We felt we could honor our community most by balancing respect for history with being relevant in this building’s next one hundred years,” owner Greg Terrill says. “The team pulled it off, and the community response has been wonderful.”
Market Square, Roanoke’s popular downtown dining and shopping district, is an easy stroll away. Then again, first-night guests might not make it past the hotel’s own cozy restaurant and bar, helmed by chef Jeff Farmer, known from local favorites Lucky and Fortunato. His Stock menu is an on-trend nod to Nordic cuisine, so expect gravlax and Danish meatballs along with Denver steak and hand-cut fries. (And if fresh local trout is on offer, accept.)
All in all, a stay at Fire Station One is a boutique hotel experience with extra layers of history and charm. And, it should go without saying, smoking is not allowed.