York, PA -
Alex Bastian and his fiancée, Erin Herbert, are beginning their life together in an unusual setting: an old firehouse.
The York couple purchased the home in June 2011 and has been living in the upper levels of the building that dates back to 1874 and was previously known as Rescue Station 4 in the 300 block of South George Street.
Between renovation work, Bastian and Herbert have been diving in to the history of their home -- where they plan to be wed on July 9. They've discovered, among the old fire buckets and the bell tower that overlooks the city, that the firehouse was once a social hub in the community. And they hope to return it to that glory.
The Kennard-Dale High School art teachers have envisioned turning the old truck bay, where they now park their cars, into a community art gallery.
"We're in an area between York College and the central part of the city and there just isn't anything here," Bastian said. "We think we can make this a place where people enjoy spending their time."
When the pair moved into the building nearly two years ago, they focused on improving the second floor, which they use as a studio and guest-room area, as well as the third floor, which is
Bastian's father, who works as a carpenter, has traveled from the Buffalo, N.Y.-area to help turn the open living space into a home.
Old, white windowpanes that were found in the building have been used to create bedroom space, leaving an open feel while providing privacy. The windows reach from the floor to the ceiling to wall off a master bedroom on the top floor, and a guest bedroom in the studio.
Despite providing their own personal touches, Bastian and Herbert have tried to incorporate the historical fire items they found in the home.
Herbert has plants tucked into old fire buckets. Throughout the home are figurines and etchings on glass doors to remember the firehouse mascot -- a buck.
A truly unique feature of the home is the bell tower.
Anyone brave enough to climb the three ladders that lead to the top is rewarded with a view of the city. It's a perfect spot, Bastian said, for watching July 4th fireworks.
The truck bay remains one of the final parts of the firehouse that needs to be finished.
After turning a gravel lot to the side of the building into a garden, the couple decided they would hold their wedding ceremony there later this summer. Their reception will be in the garage -- where an old chalk board shows a record of fire calls and a large, wooden structure is all that's left of the antique call center.
Toward the back of the truck bay are stables where horses were once kept until they were needed to pull the fire equipment to a scene.
Bastian and Herbert have learned a lot about Old Mack -- the horse that spent its life working from the station.
In the bathroom that sits in the corner of the bay, the couple plans to line the floor with horseshoes in honor of the animals that served there.
"We don't want to change the character of this place," Herbert said. "There's so many neat features of it. Our goal is to keep it as authentic as possible."
As money and time allow, they continue to envision the art gallery, which they hope to have open within two years.
"It's kind of a second journey for us," Bastian said. "We see positive things happening in this city and we want to be part of that."