When Eliot Ness reorganized the police department in 1938, he transitioned the force from what were then eighteen precincts into five, larger districts which were further divided into 32 zones. In the early years of the district system, the headquarters for each district were housed inside former precinct station houses. It wasn’t until thirty years later that each district received a new, modern headquarters.
The First District was originally headquartered in the old 17th Precinct Station, at 15619 Lorain Avenue. Constructed in 1914, the building first housed the West Park Village offices and police department. In 1923, the City of Cleveland annexed West Park Village and the building became the 17th Precinct Station until 1938.
In 1969, then Police Chief Gerity embarked on a modernization program for the department, which included replacing the aging, out-of-date Central Police Station (then at 2100 Payne) and the First and Fourth District headquarters. Gerity called these facilities “an insult to the public and the service they deserve and expect from their police department. Our department cannot do a proper job without proper physical facilities.”
Construction on the new First District Headquarters, which served the city’s far southwest side, didn’t begin until May, 1973. The Cleveland Plain Dealer explained, “Groundbreaking for the 1st District station house at W. 130th Street and Brooklawn Avenue, SW will be Tuesday. It will replace the station housed in what was the city hall of old West Park before it was annexed to Cleveland in 1923.” The old precinct building was replaced with Worthington Playground.
Article written by Mazie Adams, Executive Director of the Cleveland Police Historical Society & Museum, 2021