I am super excited to talk about the Chapman Steamer Firehouse over on 179 Dubois Street. Last year in June we posted about how the renovation of this amazing building was in danger. I had asked around and didn’t hear anything new, and the blog they started hadn’t been updated in ages, so I assumed that the project was dead. How wrong I was!
The Chapman Steamer Collective LLC is very much alive and kicking. The story starts out with 5 artistic friends who are originally from Brooklyn. They were happy there but quickly found that Brooklyn was turning into Manhattan and they were getting priced out. The search began for a work place that they could go to on the weekends. Not knowing much about anything North of Westchester or the Bronx, the friends began visiting another friend in Beacon who had renovated an old school. They were introduced to the owners of the Beacon Glass firehouse, who then told them about a firehouse in Newburgh across the river. At the time it was owned by Holland Woo.
There were many visions for the Chapman Steamer Firehouse such as- a bed and breakfast, a 3 story restaurant, or a live/work architecture space. In September 2007 the Chapman 5 purchased the firehouse. The goal for the space today is for it to become an education and entertainment space on the first floor, and artists lofts above. Roderick Vaughn (known as Vaughn), with whom I spoke to comes from a theatrical background. He has worked at Lincoln Center, BAM, and City Center to name a few.
Vaughn mentioned that he and his partners were surprised at how many people were interested in the work they were doing at the firehouse. Neighbors would bring over muffins and express their interest in investing in the area pending the success of the firehouse. Sitting at the Northeast corner of Downing Park, the firehouse is in a part of Newburgh that doesn’t get as much attention but, equally beautiful.
They anticipate to complete their project toward the end of May 2011. They will have “Firehouse Arts & Lofts” which will have 4 live/work spaces. The smallest space will be approximately 850 sq ft and the largest approximately 1275 sq ft. Each apartment will be unique and have special features like interesting tubs and entryways. There will also be a private garden for residents. The ground floor will consist of 2 commercial spaces that will be used for special events and art. They plan to offer classes that will cater to the community including: food preparation, exercising at home, how to go grocery shopping on $20 etc. In the summer they plan to have an ice cream parlor in the back.
Sustainability and the environment were kept in mind while renovating as well. They are applying for LEED certification and they will be using solar energy for the electricity. About 80-85% of the electricity for the lofts will be solar energy based. They will also reuse rainwater for the washers, toilets, and dishwashers. There will be radiant heated floors, and tank-less water heaters. Vaughn and his associates are extremely excited to provide pure energy for their tenants.
Seeing all of this come together one has to reflect back on the challenges that they have experienced thus far. Perhaps one of the biggest ones would be a huge crack in the façade of the building. Apparently in 1955 when South Street was being built, dynamite was used. That caused the whole face of the building to fall, and left a giant crack in the façade. Vaughn thinks the crack deterred many buyers because they thought the building would crack in half. Thankfully their construction manager managed to fix it by incorporating Heli-Ties to keep it together. Also, when I spoke to Vaughn, he was recovering from a cold that he caught from spending 2 days out in the rain repairing the leaky roof!
The last fireman to leave the building was in March 1976. Now the building will have a lot of new life in 2011. The Chapman 5 is now the Chapman 8. Members include Roderick Vaughn, Mei Wang-Vaughn, Toi Wang, Jerome Gasper, Noreen Sumpter, Aquanetta Wright, Romana Torres, and Decora. They invite anyone to come and visit when the doors are open. The Chapman Steamer Collective is a collective group of everyone in the community. They want this to be a local project of local people.