REAL ESTATE

We Went There: Live in a New Orleans Firehouse That Rose From the Ashes

  • The kitchen.

    The kitchen.

  • The living room. Or a gallery. Or a coffee shop.

    The living room. Or a gallery. Or a coffee shop.

  • The custom cabinetry is all made of reclaimed wood.

    The custom cabinetry is all made of reclaimed wood.

While New Orleans Fire Engine No. 39 won't be roaring out of this garage ever again, it doesn't mean this old firehouse couldn't rise from the ashes. Thanks to a major effort from a local builder, this fire station in the Holy Cross neighborhood is habitable for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. It's on the market for $369,000.

How you want to use it is up to you. When we visited the 2,110-square-foot corner lot, we marveled at the possibilities.

"I can just picture a coffee shop -- you have your bar right here and a bathroom over there and an office," says listing agent Lara Schultz, gesturing around the home's massive garage. Edison lightbulbs hang from the ceiling on thick, curvy wire. "Maybe an artist's gallery," she says.

The property is zoned for commercial and residential use, so its possibilities are endless. The folding garage door could be used as the front door for a bistro-style cafe, or it could extend the living room to the gated driveway -- ideal for large get-togethers.

Established in 1924, the firehouse had been in operation for 81 years when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The building was sold at auction to Kayne LaGraize, owner of LaGraize Builders, who gave it a serious rehab.

But like most of New Orleans, what's new pays homage to the old.

Save for the two bathrooms and the kitchen, the floors of the three-bedroom property are original concrete which were acid-washed to a warm mix of brown hues.

While new, the bathrooms feature the same penny tilework floor used in the original building. The cabinets, shelving, sinks, and woodwork throughout the house are all new.

LaGraize built the cabinets and shelves out of reclaimed wood, resulting in a rustic style. The oversize kitchen sink is also reclaimed: a 200-pound hollowed block of concrete LaGraize fished out from his backyard.

People "want a house with character," says LaGraize, standing underneath the kitchen's custom-made steel chandelier adorned with wine bottles.

Without a doubt, the property has character in spades. The exterior of the single-story home with its unique brickwork porch and bungalow-style roofing remains the same. But it's not an anomaly in the area. The Holy Cross neighborhood has been rebounding since Katrina.

"It's the hottest place for conversions," says Schultz. Sound the alarm!