Ben Shipper and Cindy Perpich purchased a former Chicago firehouse 20 years ago for $410,000. After years of renovations, while keeping the building’s firehouse character intact, the couple has put their home on the market for $1.35 million. It turns out there’s a market for firehouses, reports MarketWatch staffer Daniel Goldstein.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper rehabbed a former New York fire patrol building after he purchased it in 2010 for $4.3 million; a firehouse in San Francisco went on the market for nearly $7 million last year; and a retired firehouse in Brooklyn rents for $15,000 a month.

Since most homeowners today crave lots of open space and large rooms, disused firehouses make excellent conversions, observed Joseph Smith, an architect in San Antonio who’s drafting the designs for a rehab of a retired Spanish Colonial–style firehouse built in 1924 that’s slated to become a bar and restaurant. “For a residence or loft-type living, it’s a great opportunity,” he said.

Smith, like Shipper and Perpich in Chicago before him, isn’t changing much, inside or out, in the firehouse revamp. “We’re going to preserve as much as we can, including the fire poles,” said Smith. “I think keeping that alive is important. It should look clean and smart without a lot of ornamentation,” he said. “Being a fireman was a simple life. These guys lived in the firehouse, but they were providing a service, and the building reflected that.”

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