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Neighborhood firehouse full of rich history

SPRINGFIELD -- The city is known for its rich history, but city leaders say there's a big part which is often overlooked.
SPRINGFIELD -- The city is known for its rich history, but city leaders say there's a big part which is often overlooked. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels shows what they're doing to keep a piece of local African-American culture alive.

On this ordinary street, in this ordinary neighborhood, sits what Kathryn Harris thought was an ordinary building.

"When we first moved across the street, the building was in disrepair. Well, it wasn't in disrepair, but it wasn't up to snuff."

Harris says she had no idea this place is actually an historic landmark.

"I had heard about 'the colored firehouse' and then I discovered, well that's the building right across from my house."

For most of the 20th century, this was the only place African-American firefighters could work in Springfield.

"When segregation was alive and well, this facility took care of this community when white fire stations wouldn't."

That's why city leaders say it's so important to save it. They're redoing the facade to make it look like it did when it was a working firehouse. It's something local say brings back a lot of fond memories.

"I knew all of the firemen here and they were all like part of my family. It was much more than a firehouse. It was where I played. It was where I grew up."

It now serves as a community center, but city leaders hope, no matter what goes on inside, the outside will always be a symbol of progress.

"It's important so we don't forget what was."

Construction can't get started until the group finishes fundraising. The project is expected to cost about $200,000.

Project leaders say they're not sure how long it will take to raise the money. When they do, they expect construction to just last a few weeks.

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