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August 25, 2023

Friday Food Insider: Getting fired up for a meal at firehouse-turned-eatery

Courtesy / Joseph Smith Red City Ale House, at 8 Main St. in Windham, was converted from the former South Windham Fire Station into a full-service restaurant.

A former Windham firehouse where bells and sirens once rang is now serving up a "4 Alarm Burger" and "Ladder 1 Pizza."

Red City Ale House, at 8 Main St., was converted from the former South Windham Fire Station into a full-service restaurant.

The 4 Alarm Burger consists of an 8-ounce Angus beef patty topped with smoked brisket, bacon, cheddar cheese, pickles and habanero relish. The Ladder 1 is Red City's take on buffalo-style pizza. 

The 3,700-square-foot space has seating for up to 92 people and outdoor dining for another 60 diners. Patrons can sit on the back deck overlooking the Presumpscot River, at sidewalk tables, or inside, where the large retractable doors are raised on nice days. 

The restaurant offers an upscale American pub menu with a rotation of food and cocktail specials. There are 12 rotating taps featuring primarily local and a few domestic beers.

“I like to call the menu upscale pub food, with a good variety of delicious dishes,” said owner Ben Smith. “I love simple, good food and wanted a mixture of traditional favorites done our way and some more signature dishes. We also offer Sunday brunch starting this Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m..”

Courtesy / Joey Smith
A view of Red City Ale House's interior.

History behind the new restaurant

The town of Windham vacated its 51-year-old fire station and it became a prime prospect for the first step in the South Windham Village-Little Falls Gorham Village revitalization. 

The building was purchased from the town and developed by Great Falls Construction and Red City Ale House was leased to Ben Smith. 

The project was a family affair: Ben Smith's brother John Smith leads Great Falls Construction, with John's wife Cindy. John and Cindy's son Joey handles business development and marketing for Great Falls.

“Great Falls Construction and JCS Property Management saw this as an opportunity to be a catalyst in an area that was once a thriving village,” said Joey Smith.

“Once it was discovered that the fire station had a large enough interior to support the requirements of a restaurant and was a strong structure, it became obvious that this station had great potential for another use. From a historical perspective, it is a smart growth success when one can pay homage to the former use of a facility while still achieving and modernizing the structure for new use.”

The construction consisted of a complete gut and renovation, leaving only the exterior walls and garage bay doors. The interior space was renovated into the dining room, and a full commercial kitchen with a pizza oven and a prep area. Front and back patio spaces were also added.

Ryan Senatore Architecture did the building design and interior design was done in-house at Great Falls Construction. The interior pays homage to the town's history and the fire station. 

“It is a great location in an underserved area (as far as restaurants go), high traffic, lots of neighborhoods around and a really cool old firehouse building with great character,” said Ben. “I wanted to create a welcoming neighborhood pub-style offering. Also, it was a good opportunity to be on the vanguard of a major coordinated effort by Windham and Gorham to revitalize this area.”

Joey Smith told Mainebiz that the restaurant's name, Red City Ale, was chosen by Cindy Smith, who is vice president of Great Falls Construction. While researching the area, she learned it was once nicknamed “Red City” when the Keddy Mill was operating. The area provided housing for mill workers and was called “Red City” due to the housing stock features.

Other fiery hot spots

Firehouse Grill at 47 Broad St. in Auburn was founded in November 2011 by two Auburn firefighters, Lt. John Roy and Chief Victor Mathieu. They converted the former Andy's Baked Bean Tavern into a neighborhood pub decorated with memorabilia donated by firefighters from surrounding communities. 

The restaurant has fire department-themed food like the Deputy Chief and Lieutenant sandwiches, Firehouse Steak Tips and more. 

In Scarborough, Harbor Fish Market and Rosemont Market & Bakery opened in March 2022 at 246 U.S. Route 1. The spot was originally the Scarborough Fire Department, but it closed after a new Public Service building opened down the road. In April, the former fire station welcomed Burano’s Pizza, which also has locations in Bath and Hallowell. So, if you are looking for some good wood-fired pizza or need to stop at the market, this is the place for you. 

What new pub restaurants have you tried this year? The Mainebiz Food Insider wants to know! Contact Alexis Wells at

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