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What was once the first Fire Department in Grand Forks North Dakota is now a theater. It was built in 1905 and acted as headquarters when the second fire department was built and occupied in 1908. The fire department was then bought by the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre in 1982 and produced its first show Dracula in 1983 after some remodeling. The theater is rumored to be haunted.


  • The fire department with the firemen.

The Fire Hall Theatre was originally the first fire department in Grand Forks. When the fire department in Grand Forks was in operation it had seven firemen that were not volunteers but paid staff; the fire chief's first name was August. The fire department had "state of the art equipment."1 Both fire stations started out with horses, but slowly traded them in for machines until it was all trucks in 1929. The fire department was closed in the early 1970s due to it being too close to the train tracks. The problem was if there was a train on the tracks they wouldn’t be able to pass the train to get to a fire. Then the secondary fire department took over as the main fire department.

The Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre was founded in 1947 as a non- profit organization "to provide entertainment."2 From the time they were established to 1983 they performed wherever they could, in churches, performance halls, and hotels. That changed when they bought the fire hall for $3500 from the city wrecking crew. The group remodeled the fire department building by turning the horse stable and truck area into the stage, seating area, and lobby area, the break room into the dressing room and make up room. They also kept the spiral stair case that goes from the stage up to the prop storage and leads to the dressing room and the costume room. During the great flood of 1997 the Fire Hall Theatre had a lot of water damage, and some feared that it would be demolished. They didn’t know how bad the damage was because they couldn’t visit it. Thanks to fundraisers in the spring they were able to open again in September after some recovery time.

There are three main programs at the theater. The community theater main stage, spotlight players, and theater workshops for youth. The main stage is the plays and musicals they put on during the year and any and all are welcome even if you have no experience. The time you put in is voluntary, the people in the plays rehearse for 5 weeks and put on the play for 3. The spotlight players are for the theater’s young performers. The performers range from ages 6 – 16. They do a musical in the fall to let the young performers gain experience, they also put on one in the summer for performers ranging from 6 – 14. The theater workshops for the youth are where the theater puts on “Play Days” for children in grade 1-8 at the Fire Hall Theatre during the school year. They play theater games, create characters, and create a play in a day.

On some travel websites like TripAdvisor a lot of people say that the Fire Hall Theater gives you an intimate experience.3 With the stage and the first row of seats maybe being four feet apart. Most on this website gave it a five-star review, said the performances were good, and that it is meant for everyone. Sometime the actors will walk through the crowd too. The theater sits 108 people. They put on 7 to 8 plays and musicals a season, along with other activities like the theater workshops, helping 2nd act singers, and helping an elderly musical theater group, 65 and older, who perform at different events.

There is a tale that a ghost might haunt the Fire hall Theater. Many people have heard footsteps upstairs with no one else in the theater. The people there will sometimes see shadows on the other side of the theater when no one else is there. Some think it may be one of the firemen that haunts the building. The ghost doesn’t seem violent and is actually very helpful when props go missing.4

 


1.Kathleen Coudle-King, Fire Hall Theatre Director. Personal Communication. April 10, 2019 

2. ggfct.com. About. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.ggfct.com/about.html.

3. Fire Hall Theatre. TripAdvisor. Accessed April 15, 2019. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g49816-d9771497-Reviews-Fire_Hall_Theatre-Grand_Forks_North_Dakota.html.

4. Smith, John. Grand Forks North Dakota The Fire Hall Theater. Haunted Hovel. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.hauntedhovel.com/grand-forks-north-dakota-the-fire-hall-theater.html.

Fire Hall Theater pictures (n.d.), Retrieved April 10, 2019 from Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections Chester Fritz Library University of North Dakota.

Grand Forks Government. "History of the Grand Forks Fire Department."  Accessed April 18, 2019. http://www.grandforksgov.com/government/city-departments/fire/history.