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.
The Second District was originally headquartered in the Romanesque-style Eighth Precinct station located at 2885 Detroit. Built in 1892, the station was “an imposing structure, which rears its towers at the corner of Detroit and State streets.” The Eighth Precinct station became the headquarters for the Second District in 1938. When Patrolman Robert Shankland worked out of Second District in 1953, he remembered that “on the beat list during cold weather someone was assigned FURNACE STOKER, meaning you had to put coal in the district furnace and you better not let the fire go out.”
When it was discovered that the Detroit Avenue station had “developed a serious building defect” and one wall was severely bowed, the police department building commission approved architectural plans for two new district headquarters using a universal design that could be used for additional police buildings, if needed.
“The proposed structure would have a three-street lot so that traffic would enter from two sides,” architect Antonio DiNardo said. “The building is so designed that it may be built to fit any building site.” The two-story structure included a “spacious lobby with a terrazzo floor,” a fifteen car garage, a 70 spot surface lot, 32 individual cells for the general population, a holding room for juveniles, and a women’s detention room.
“The portico, in the design, is supported by rectangular columns. A bas relief figure is in the center of a two-storied wall which breaks up the large mass. Under the figure is the bronze seal of the city of Cleveland. A narrow cornice or coping accents the horizontal effect.”
The architect described the building as “well-balanced” with an unsymmetrical in design, with a functional edifice with no wasted areas. The buildings would cost $350,000.
When the building opened in the spring of 1955, it was called “the finest station in the nation.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran photos of the new district, which was also photographed by the police department prior to its opening. Special features in the building included a backlit, multicolored mural map of the 2nd district, a gathering room for “neighborhood and civic groups”, and an instrument panel “behind bullet-proof glass [that] controls all doors, lights and so forth in the jail.”
Article written by Mazie Adams, Executive Director of the Cleveland Police Historical Society & Museum, 2021