Thirty three years ago, the City of Battle Creek closed the old Fire Station #4 on Kendall Street.  It had served the neighborhood of 80 years, ever since the Advance Thresher Company had it built across the street to protect their business.   But once the merger between the city and township went through, it was no longer needed.   The old station sat empty for seven years, and the city started accepting bids to tear it down.  That’s when a citizen named Warren Lun stepped in.

Lun had moved back into Michigan, and was looking for a place to keep his antique firetrucks, firefighting equipment and memorabilia.   Lun stepped in and saved the building, keeping it up and preserving it.    Fast forward 26 years, and something remarkable is happening in the latest chapter of the old station.

On Wednesday, FireKeeper’s Casino broke ground on a project that will convert it into a restaurant, with community meeting rooms, and a Food Bank food pantry.  And, the adjacent land, just south of the railroad tracks, will have greenhouses built to grow food for free salad bars at downtown schools.

FireKeeper’s says construction work on the project will begin immediately.  The building is in amazing shape, since Warren Lun lived there as he worked on it for those 26 years.   He estimates that he’s probably spent $100,000 over the years.

This firehouse, which opened on July 2, 1904, was the last one in the city to use horse-drawn equipment, finally getting motorized equipment in 1917.   The original building cost $8,100 to build.

Like two other fire stations in Battle Creek, it wasn’t government that built them, but private industry.  The No. 2, at 145 N. Washington St. across from the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, was built by John Harvey Kellogg, and No. 3, at the corner of Cliff and Grenville streets was built by Post Cereal.  Warren Lun kept it going for another quarter century, and now another non-governmental entity, FireKeeper’s Casino, will take it to a new use.

Lun says he is happy to find somebody who will take care of the building and to help further preservation of Battle Creek history.

FireKeeper’s spokesman Jim Wise says the restaurant could be open in time to take the family to dinner over the holidays later this year, and he says 80% of the profits will be donated to local charities.  Wise says the other 20% of profits will be used to maintain the building.  He says they will have a process by which local non-profit groups may apply for funding.

The concept for the building was the vision of Chef Mike McFarlen, Vice President of Food and Beverage at the Casino.   McFarlen is also a board member of the Food Bank of South Central Michigan. He says the restaurant, which will be formally named soon, will feature an array of sandwiches, thin crust pizza and desserts, and an artisan bakery with a wide array of baked goods.