Can you name the only United States president to be born in New York City? Here’s a hint: he served as the city’s Police Commissioner when the 9th Police Precinct Station House on Charles Street in the Far West Village was constructed in 1896-97.
The answer, as you may have guessed, is Theodore Roosevelt! He was born in 1858 on 28 East 20th Street just north of Greenwich Village. Before he was sworn in as the 26th President of the United States in September 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt served as Commissioner for the City of New York Police Board from 1895-97. The 9th Police Precinct Station House, located at 131-137 Charles Street and pictured above, was the first station house in the city to be built during his tenure with the police department. The station house was designated as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension I in 2006, a district for which GVSHP has long advocated.
Roosevelt played an important role in the reformation of the New York City Police Department. According to the Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt website, Roosevelt and his friend, noted journalist Jacob Riis, would often patrol the streets in an attempt to catch police officers sleeping or drinking on the job, accepting bribes, etc. Roosevelt had telephones installed in each police station and cracked down on a police force that was considered one of the country’s most corrupt. After his time with the police department, he became Governor of New York and signed into law the replacement of multiple Police Commissioners with a single Police Commissioner.
The 9th Police Precinct Station House, which was converted to apartments in 1977 and renamed “Le Gendarme,” was designed by John duFais in the Renaissance Revival style. The building is also noteworthy as the first police station not to be designed by architect Nathaniel D. Bush between the years 1862 and his retirement in 1895. It remains remarkably intact and is a wonderful reminder of a critical time in the police department’s history.
While we were thrilled when the City voted to designate this significant expanse of the Far West Village, there is still more work to be done in this area. Help us protect these invaluable pieces of Village history by writing a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and urging them to designate 370 West 11th Street, 372 West 11th Street, and Charles Lane, as they promised to in 2005. To see our 2004 proposal to the LPC for the preservation of the Far West Village and Greenwich Village Waterfront, click HERE.