Renovating a Historic Firehouse — Part 1

The chronicles of renovating an old Seattle firehouse while maintaining a relationship

Abigail Carter


The listing photos used for our 1913 Firehouse in Seattle

On a Thursday morning in June, I clicked open a Zillow email. The first property listed was a tall, tutor-style house. The price was in range. I clicked further. Jim, at his under-the-stairs desk, swiveled behind me at my little gasp.

“Oh, my God,” I said aloud. “Look at this place! Jim, it’s an old fire station!”

I should probably mention here that my boyfriend was a firefighter, so the idea of buying a fire station was laughable.

After four years together, my boyfriend Jim and I were struggling to combine our lives without much success. Jim, a single firefighter with no kids had grown tired of living between his bachelor basement in Georgetown, Seattle’s gritty, hipster neighborhood, his fire station (where he spent two nights every four days), and my house in a more gentrified Seattle neighborhood.

When I moved to Seattle from New Jersey to Seattle in 2005, I found my dream house. I had been widowed four years earlier when my kids were six and ten. Full of light, a view of Lake Washington, in a fun, beautiful neighborhood, the house was a perfect place to raise my grieving kids as a single, widowed mom.

We were a bit of an odd couple. We met when my kids were 12 and 16, and the relationship bloomed. His adventurous lifestyle was fun for the kids, especially for my son, who enjoyed having a guy around to teach him guy stuff. I was thrilled too. Suddenly, bathroom drains were cleared, minor repairs completed and he even occasionally put the garbage out, which was astonishing to this single mom. Jim could fix and do almost anything and it was nice to have a partner to share the workload, even if it was only a couple of nights a week.

Part of my plan was to eventually downsize after my kids went to college. With my younger a senior in high school, that time was drawing near, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to leave my dream house. Finances, however, looked to be making the decision for me. The taxes were skyrocketing and my fixed income was not.

As well, I didn’t account for Jim in that vague downsizing plan. In my imagined relationships…



Abigail Carter

Writing about widowhood, parenting, life, grief, art, writing and publishing. #singlemom #author #memoirist #writer #widow #9/11widow #artist