Prior to the early 1880s, Cleveland’s Fifth Precinct covered the near west side. As early as 1873, the Fifth Precinct station house sat on a small lot on Barber Avenue, near Columbus Street. A few years later, architect A. Koehler designed a new building for the same location, a “brick, two stories in height, and twenty feet wide by fifty-six feet in length. The first floor will contain the office for the sergeant, a patrolman’s room, and eight cells. The second floor will have a lunch room for the use of the patrolmen, and will be the only apartment on that floor. The building will doubtless be one of the most convenient and comfortable station houses in the city.”
In January of 1883 the Cleveland Police Department went through a major reorganization, surpassed only by the enactment of the Metropolitan Police Act in 1866. Precinct boundaries and the numbering system were revised and there was a wholesale re-distribution of police officers. The new Fifth Precinct boundaries ran “from the corner of Wilson Avenue and Garden street, along garden east to its end, and on a line with the end to the city limits, along the city limits to Kinsman, to the south branch of Kingsbury Run, along the run to Wilson, to Garden street.”
Officers assigned to the Fifth Precinct worked out of the Third Precinct station house until finally, in 1896, the Cleveland police dedicated “a neat and compact structure” as the new station house for the Fifth District. It was located on Madison (now E. 79th) near Woodland Avenue. A brick patrol barn was added in 1901.
This building served as the Fifth Precinct for many years before it was one of six vacant precinct stations converted into a Boys Town Recreation center by Safety Director Eliot Ness. Organized in 1939 to combat juvenile delinquency, Boys Towns provided a variety of services and support centered on crime prevention to boys aged 8-18. Later, the building served as a control center for Civilian Defense during World War II.