New Life for an Old Firehouse
A Poliform sectional sofa and three Wendell Castle additional chairs provide plenty of seating in the living room; art over the sofa is by Chilean artist Jose Basso.
Photographed by Cheryl Gerber
John Kirkendoll is a man with an imagination. “When I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign on the firehouse on Bienville Street in the French Quarter, I bought it,” he says as he gives a tour of the unique building that began its life in 1907 as Engine 7. “I had walked and driven by the firehouse for 10 years and always admired the bones of the place, and thought how cool it would be to remodel such an historic property. It may sound crazy, but the firehouse spoke to me and asked to be made great.”
Kirkendoll’s dream home is now in what was once the only firehouse in the French Quarter. The spectacular space doesn’t give a hint of its original use once you step inside. With the help of architect Erin Christman, re:FORM NOLA, and Brian Bockman and Jack Forbes, Bockman + Forbes Design interior designers and architects, today the space is a comfortable 3,200 square-foot condo for Kirkendoll on the first floor, and a 2,700-square-foot condo for his brother Al, his partner in Kirkendoll Management, on the second floor. “My goal was to create the finest residential project in New Orleans with a modern, minimalist, ‘out of the box thinking’ design,” says Kirkendoll, who purchased the property in 2005.
“Brian is architect and interior designer, plus a construction manager all in one,” Kirkendoll says. “His vision for the firehouse was amazing. The taste of the Brian-Jack duo was impeccable, and along with Erin and Greg App of Historic Home Renovation as the general contractor on the project, we definitely had a winning team. Greg and his workers were more artisans than contractors; they delivered a perfect house.”
The building was gutted back to bare bricks and a foundation of dirt. “We started with a clean palate and ended up with something magical,” he continues. “I can boldly say the firehouse is now a perfect home.”
Everything about the condo is distinctive; especially the large space where a fire wagon or fire truck once parked that is now Kirkendoll’s office. “I like working late at night in my ‘garage,’” he says. “It’s also nice to put the door up and gather with friends to watch sports when the weather permits.
“People joke about the irony of the firehouse being the only building I own in Louisiana that doesn’t have a pole in it,” he says in reference to the fact that Kirkendoll Management owns the Penthouse Club on Iberville Street in the French Quarter. “All joking aside, the condo feels just as great whether there are two people enjoying the space or a party with over a 100 guests.”
Kirkendoll shares the condo and a historic 1899 Victorian home in Telluride, Colorado, (also renovated by Brian Brockman and Jack Forbes) with Peiper Hastings, his bride as of this month. “The firehouse condo is really a lovely oasis in the midst of the French Quarter, and it’s quite a treat to call it home,” Hastings says. Kirkendoll concurs, “The French Quarter is a special place. There is something in the air – a spirituality and edginess – that I’ve never experience in my travels. I’ve always found myself drawn back here and now with my firehouse-to-condo conversion I can truly call it home.”