CHICAGO (CBS) – The 103-year-old old Town Hall District police station is set to close its doors, as the district officers move down the street to a new, state-of-the-art facility.
The police station was built in 1907. It was constructed from remnants of the old Lake View Town Hall and Courthouse, which was constructed in 1872 at the same northwest corner of Halsted and Addison streets to serve what was then the suburb of Lake View. The suburb was annexed to Chicago in 1889.
Since it opened, the police station has survived several attempts to replace it or shut it down.
When district were consolidated in 1959, the Town Hall police station served the 19th District, which extended from Lawrence Avenue on the north to Fullerton Avenue on the south, and from Lake Michigan on the east to the Chicago River’s North Branch on the west.
“The new 19th combines the old 37th, 38th and 39th districts…. On the lake shore are the harbors at Montrose, Belmont, and Diversey. Riverview Amusement Park and Wrigley Field are both in this district, as is the House of the Good Shepard (sic), where girls who are wards of the juvenile court stay,” a 1962 Chicago Police newsletter said in describing the district.
But in 1966, then-police Supt. O.W. Wilson said the old station could not provide the “space and modern equipment” needed for modern policing, the Tribune reported.
A new 19th District police station, at 2452 W. Belmont Ave., was later constructed on the former site of the aforementioned Riverview Amusement Park. But rather than having the new station supplant the Town Hall District station, as past published reports have said was the intention, police officials instead split the district in two. The Belmont District became the 19th District, while the Town Hall District became the 23rd District, with Clark Street as the dividing line between the two districts.
In 2004, there were rumors of a plan to recombine the districts. That year, the Town Hall District lockup was closed, and ever since, prisoners who were arrested in the district have instead been taken two miles west to the Belmont District lockup.
But through it all, the Town Hall station has remained. It has survived 15 mayors and 26 top cops, the Tribune reported.
In the past few decades, the neighborhood surrounding the Town Hall District station has been transformed into one of the nation’s best-known gay nightlife districts. The Boystown neighborhood became the first officially recognized gay village in the country in 1998, and most of its nightclubs are located Halsted Street near the police station.
The relationship between the police district and the gay community in Boystown has had its well-documented ups and downs. Last year, many in the community were infuriated by allegations that a district officer, Richard Fiorito, had been falsifying police reports and making up DUI charges against drivers in the area, and specifically targeting gays and lesbians. Fiorito was placed on desk duty, but the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office declined to press criminal charges.
However, Gay Chicago Magazine points out, the role of the police liaison to the gay and lesbian community was originated in the Town Hall District by former Cmdr. Joseph DeLopez in the 1990s. A group picture of officers in front of the police station led the magazine’s “Now in Gay Chicago” news Web site Thursday.
The new Town Hall District station is located at 850 W. Addison St., directly behind the old one. The fate of the old building has yet to be determined, but among the ideas are using it for as office space for city Department of Revenue, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told the Tribune.