The most beautiful police headquarters ever built

This turn-of-the-century postcard can’t stop boasting about 240 Centre Street, built in 1909 to serve the newly consolidated police department in the now five-borough city.


According to the back of the card, it’s made of Indiana limestone, cost $1.5 million to build, holds a detectives bureau, rogues gallery, 75 basement cells, a drill room, and a gym.

Oh, and perhaps my favorite, there’s a “play-room for lost children.” Were lost kids a problem in 1909?

I wonder if the police force of a century ago could have ever imagined that their headquarters would become the Police Building co-op apartments in 1988, and that the neighborhood would go from Little Italy to a posh enclave known as Nolita.

This Zillow listing for a one-bedroom (it costs more than the entire structure did in 1909!) gives a nice glimpse of the marble lobby and cupula.

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9 Responses to “The most beautiful police headquarters ever built”

  1. S.S. Says:

    Purportedly during Prohibition, there was also a tunnel or corridor that led from the Police Buildkng under Centre Market Street to the speakeasy across the street on the NE corner of Grand, which operates today as O’Nieal’s. Vestiges appear to remain.

  2. Robert R Says:

    This was one of the first condo developments in the area 25 years ago. The entire exterior was preserved; hooray! Love that this card shows the Broome Street Tabernacle and a Grand Street streetcar. Does anyone know what is referenced by “Subway Bridge Loop Under Street”?

  3. BabyDave Says:

    Robert R. — I was wondering about that “Subway Bridge Loop” also.

  4. S.S. Says:

    Perhaps “subway under street” is not the MTA subway, but a SUBterranean passageWAY, like the one allegedly to the bar across the street.
    Read the link in the first comment for more details of its structure.

  5. TM Says:

    In 1973 I worked in that building for the NYC Police Department. One of my duties was running a passenger elevator. Had the old fashion gate that you had to manually close. Eventually we moved to the new police headquarters near the Brooklyn Bridge. Saw the building a few years ago when it was turned into condos. Hard to believe the change!

  6. Once a police precinct, now a West Village condo | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Gendarme isn’t the only police station repurposed into apartments. The former police headquarters on Centre Street is now a luxury […]

  7. Cop vs. cop: the great NYPD riot of 1857 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] New York’s police department got its official start in 1845. Before then, night watchmen guarded the city. […]

  8. The beautiful saloon ceiling on Grand Street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] didn’t have to actually cross the street to get a drink there. A tunnel was dug from the police building directly to the bar (and still exists today; it’s now a wine cellar). Very […]

  9. 3Q2HQ Says:

    It is a shame that the city did not have the foresight to maintain ownership of this building. My great-grandfather was one of the first Italian-American Detectives in the PDNY and, according to his records, spent time in the building.

    Think of how impressive, and historic, this treasure would be, if today it housed the upper echelon of the department. I was told by Luc Sante, the author of a book called “Evidence,” which exhibited century old murder scenes, that truckload of glass plate negatives and records were dumped in the East River when they abandoned the building for the albatross that is One Police Plaza.

    I doubt that the condo owners appreciate the history.

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