Firehouse Inn forlorn, but cleaner

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The Firehouse Inn was a popular Pomona restaurant of the 1970s in a unique location: a former Fire Department station built in 1924. Shades of Engine Co. 28 in downtown LA!

The Italianate-style station was Pomona’s second. According to Gloria Ricci Lathrop’s 1976 “Pomona: A Centennial History,” from which the above photo and caption were taken: “Located at Garey Avenue and Alvarado, its purpose was to handle fires in the north part of Pomona, especially if freight trains blocking the crossings prevented the main station’s crews from traveling to answer the calls.”

After some alterations, the restaurant opened in 1970, according to a Progress-Bulletin story from that April. The restaurant lasted until about 1988, based on phonebook listings; it’s unclear if anything took its place. It’s been vacant for years.

Incidentally, can that be the same street light today from whenever the historic photo was taken?

With a new Starbucks having opened across Alvarado, on a previously dead corner that had a long-vacant gas station, there’s more traffic and renewed attention. On an April 8 Starbucks visit, I walked across the street to look at the Firehouse Inn building. On the door was a Notice of Abatement, dated two days earlier and signed by a judge. (I can’t even try to relax without bumping into news, evidently.)

According to Community Development Director Mark Lazzaretto: “The weeds at the Firehouse Inn were unbearably high and there was trash and debris throughout the site. We sent notices to the owner, but the owner failed to comply. In these situations, we go to court for an abatement order, which allows the City to clean up the site so that the neighborhood isn’t burdened with the blight. We then lien the property and recoup our costs when the property is sold.”

For now, the Firehouse Inn sits, boarded up, waiting for progress. Would anyone like to comment about the current condition, the recent past or memories of having dined there?

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  • John Clifford

    Actually there were a couple of restaurants there. Lot of folks remember the firehouse inn, but by the mid ’80s it was a Don Salsa. Since then it’s been vacant and a home for the homeless from time to time. Due to its historic importance and the fact that it’s right here in the historic neighborhood, we tend to keep an eye on it. There is a lot of concern that we will end up with “Demolition By Neglect” since there is an owner who doesn’t care about the property and doesn’t take care of it. We only need some homeless person to build a fire to keep warm that gets out of control.

    I’m aware that there have been at least a couple of offers to purchase the property but the absentee landowner is holding out for much more money than the property seems to be worth.

  • SAWZ

    Back in the old days it was a favorite–delicious lobster–usually a wait to be seated. A while after the Arbor closed in Upland (Arbor was the best restaurant that ever existed in this area) the Arbor’s former owner/chef, Walter Rippe, became a chef at the Firehouse Inn–but it couldn’t be saved, alas! The former main chef, Nick Montoya, at the upscale hotel in Claremont, next to Griswolds, which name now escapes me (something with “Indian Hill”) left that upscale restaurant and opened his own Mexican resaurant in the old school house building and later he also opened Don Salsa in the former Firehouse Inn building. It is so sad to remember the good places that used to be.

    • John Clifford

      Was the one in the schoolhouse Casa Ramon? I was working for a newspaper back in the mid-’70s and was invited to the opening of the schoolhouse which included a very good lunch at Casa Ramon and for some reason I’ve always remembered it.

      • SAWZ

        Yes, I think you are right–Casa Ramon. .

    • Randee Kirkemo

      My grandpa was Nick Montoya and sadly he passed away in 2014. I loved his cooking and Don Salsa, so nice to see people still remember him <3 Randee

      • hazel

        Sorry for your loss. Back in 1981 he gave a cooking show at LA Fairgrounds. Of course we went to restaurant….enjoyed food and service.

  • Ren

    Back in the early 1960’s I use to stop there on my way home from Lincoln School. I would stop and talk to the firemen asking them, all sorts of things. And they use to give these free fireman’s helmet hats for kid’s. They gave me a tour one day, showed me where everything takes place. Where the eat and slept, It was all so cool to see them out there cleaning their fire engine, just right outside those big doors, well they were big back then, from the eyes of a kid.

  • PmnaTown

    Hopefully the owner will sell it soon.

    • John Clifford

      The offers I referenced below were SEVERAL years ago. Then we were hopeful that it would sell soon. Now we’re just concerned that he’s waiting for it to fall down.

  • Bob Terry

    My late, former mother-in-law Carolyn Lowther was raising 2 daughters by herself so during the days she would work at Espiaus on Holt, come home to South Pomona to rest a bit, then go work cocktails at the Firehouse in the evenings. This only went on for a couple of years. She then married a bartender who worked at the Beef & Barrel on Indian Hill, but that didn’t last long either. She was incredibly well known and loved in town, especially when she cock-tailed at The Elks in Pomona a little later.

  • Tad A Decker

    Hi David,
    I haven’t chimed in for a while, but I have remained a faithful reader.

    Thanks for the post on the old firehouse. I too have been keeping my eye on the place for some time, hoping for a better future. I am curious about the small brick tower at the SE corner of the building in the 1929 photo, which seems to have been replaced by the wood “derick” structure there today. Maybe an earthquake damaged the brick tower?

    I am quite certain that the streetlamp you mentioned is indeed the same one in both photos (though it would have had to have been moved to its present location when Alvarado was widened). That lamppost is one of the last remaining in the Lincoln Park District of that vintage; most of the others were replaced (I think in the 80’s) with the simplified versions that are there today. In the center of Lincoln Park proper, there are a few replicas of the design that is in front of the firehouse.

    • davidallen909

      Tad, nice to hear from you. I knew the right topic would lure you back. Thanks for the insights about the streetlamp, and I too am curious about the derrick as compared to the tower.