WEST PARK CITY HALL
By Gary Swilik
Circa 1914. Original photograph.
Bohnard & Passon Colledtion. Courtesy of Craig Bobby.
As many know, West Park did not become part of Cleveland until 1923 after residents voted to approve annexation. For many, the most intriguing part of the story is that we once had our own city hall, containing the offices of West Park's mayor, city council, police force, and jail.
West Park's first city hall was located on the south side of Lorain Avenue, 115 yards west of Triskett Road. It was a two-story brick building, 28 by 36 feet, built in 1867 as Rockport District School No. 1. The building served as city hall from 1893 to 1913. The jail, quaintly referred to as the “calaboose”, was an adjoining wood-frame structure containing a single cell. Apparently it was not very secure. In 1907, two hobos, arrested for stealing beer, escaped by picking the lock with a bit of hay wire. This first city hall was heavily damaged by strong winds and rain in March, 1913, forcing the city to sell the building at auction. It sold for $46 to a local contractor who presumably dismantled it for the building materials. Plans were immediately made for a new West Park City Hall on the same site.
Cleveland architects Bohnard and Parsson designed the new building; a two-story red brick structure, with stone trim and a full basement. Estimated to cost $15,000, the exterior dimensions were 50 by 64 feet. From the front entrance a wide corridor ran back to the council chamber, which extended across the entire width of the building. On one side of the corridor were the offices of the water department and the town clerk. On the other, two offices for the use of the mayor.
From the front vestibule a wide stairway led to an assembly hall, with a stage, two dressing rooms, and modern lighting. The marshal's office, six jail cells, and the heating plant were in the basement. Since the basement was partially above ground, the jail was well lit with windows nearly as large as those on the upper floors.
The new West Park City Hall, at 15619 Lorain Avenue, opened on the evening of Wednesday, October 14th, 1914. Harris R. Cooley, Director of Cleveland's Charities and Corrections, gave the dedication address. West Park Mayor William Dahm presided over the ceremony. When West Park was annexed to Cleveland in 1923, our former city hall became Station No. 17 of the Cleveland Police Department, In 1938, Safety Director Elliot Ness reorganized the police force and the old West Park City Hall became the First District police station.
In January, 1975, First District moved to a new police station on West 130th Street, leaving the former city hall empty. However, the old jail in the basement was destined to hold one more prisoner. In April, 1975, some teenagers were prowling around in the abandoned building and accidentally locked a 15-year old boy inside one of the jail cells. It took police 20 minutes to free him with a cutting torch. The building stood for a few more years before being demolished. Today, the eastern section of Cleveland Fire Station No. 39 stands on the site once occupied by West Park City Hall.
The only known surviving relic of West Park's City Hall is now at the Treasurer's office at City Hall in Cleveland where a vintage safe, which once served West Park, is now used only to store office supplies.
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