No decision as to the disposition of the present police station building has been made by the Municipal Building Commission, which is in charge of building the PWA structure which will house the Police Department about a year from now.

A few unofficial ideas are floating around City Hall about the old structure, erected in 1879 when the police force consisted of seven men, including a chief and captain. The ideas on the disposition of it, however, are very simple: that it should remain unused when the Police Department moves over; or that it should be torn down as an eyesore. If it is, few people, least of all the future prisoners of the City of Pittsfield, will shed any tears. A few excerpts from recent history will prove this.

In 1929, when The Eagle published an article on the present structure, then passing its 50th anniversary, the reporter wrote that "it is so inadequate for the purposes for which it is intended that words fail of description … It is the dingiest, tiniest, smelliest, and poorest of the city's many buildings … It is at least 25 years behind the times."

Chief John L. Sullivan has been complaining regularly in his annual reports that the building was hopelessly inadequate. In 1933 he condemned it as "an eyesore to passersby, an obstacle to police efficiency, and a blot on humane treatment of women and juvenile prisoners." In a letter to the then Mayor Allen H. Bagg and the Council in 1936, he characterized the place as "a disgrace that you as Mayor and Councilmen should not tolerate any longer." He went on to state that the cells were of the same type that had been used in dungeons in Spain.

In 1937, the city physician and his assistant called to the attention of the Mayor and City Council "the unsanitary conditions existing at the police station." They scored the lighting, the facilities, and the general lack of sanitary conditions. Prisoners have not always been reticent, either, about describing the beauties of the place. One said the motto of the place should be "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.