Historic Detroit firehouse restored to glory in stunning transformation

- Ladder Company 12 has a rich history of horsepower. Built in 1908 in Detroit's Corktown, it was a working firehouse through the 1980s but then sat shuttered for nearly twenty years. Now it's gone through a stunning transformation.

Now, it's been transformed and is the part-garage, part-office, part-entertaining space for Ed Welburn and Jessie Beld Elliott.

Jessie is a branding specialist and Ed is the recently-retired Vice President of Global Design with General Motors. Ed's '69 Camaro and Corvettes from the past and the present are on display right in the middle of the room. The two fell in love and then fell in love with Ladder 12.

"Over time as Jessie and I developed our vision for this, the number of cars was reduced and it became more of a space to create, to entertain, to hold meetings - and also have a couple of cars," Ed says.

"I knew when I walked in and I saw the walls and the ceiling and it was all dirt, and there was a bulldozer in here I think and workmen were trying to work on the windows," Jessie says. "I couldn't get this place out of my mind."

Once covered with decades of dirt and grime, the original wood ceiling and glazed brick walls now gleam - as does a striking chandelier in the center of it all.

"I was walking through Somerset Mall and I saw it hanging at Restoration Hardware. ... I said we have to have this," says Jessie.

"You need to have a focal point in any design you do, and that is a clear focal point," Ed says.

Ed's office takes up one corner of the firehouse. Photos, mementos and models of his award-winning designs during his 44 years with GM are on display. 

"Fourty-four years at GM Design and it was great, but I'm in this new chapter. I've got new energy and it's exciting. It's automotive, but it's more," he says.

While this space inspires them creatively and professionally, the couple also loves sharing their new Detroit digs with friends. And, sometimes, a lot of friends!

"We did our first auto show party and we had over 100 people here," says Jessie.

The open entertaining space features a bar, plenty of seating, a small bedroom and bathroom and a full kitchen that's always stocked with their favorite champagne.

"It's, in a way, like vacation when we're here," says Ed.

At the far end of the firehouse, the couple added a glass atrium with more room for dining and a cozy corner, with a spiritual feel.

"I'm from Korea. A few years ago we went back to Korea and he had a design studio there and I went to a temple where my grandmother used to take me when I was little and it was just the most peaceful time I've had in forever," Jessie says. "I just wanted to try to recreate that space."

Outside the atrium windows you can see the original stables where, back in the day, they kept the horses for Ladder 12. Soon, it will become a pizza place.

Etched on the back brick wall are the names of the firefighters who once ran out of Company 12 - and now the intials of the couple who call this firehouse their home away frmo home.

"We talk about the parties that are here and the meetings that we have here, and all of that kind of thing, but there's nothing better than when it's just the two of us here on a quiet evening," says Ed.

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