New York’s “Tenderloin” district, aka “Satan’s Circus,” demanded a police station that “look[s] like a police station” according to then-Police Commissioner William McAdoo. The result was the fortress-like Tenderloin Precinct (officially the 23rd Precinct) Station House. The precinct has been renamed (7th, 14th, Midtown South) and the building’s occupant is now the NYPD Traffic Control Division, but the building is as imposing as ever.
When the 23rd Precinct Station House was built, the neighborhood was known as the city’s most corrupt red light district. The “Tenderloin” name was coined by police Captain Alexander “Clubber” Williams, who bragged after being transferred to the precinct in 1876 that after living off of chuck steak, he would now get some of the tenderloin [graft]. Williams was forced out of the department in 1895 – reputedly a millionaire.
The original building plans, wrote Commissioner McAdoo, “…looked like a second-class apartment-house. It gave no suggestion of its official character, and the internal arrangements were more fanciful than practical.” The architect, R. Thomas Short, was in fact better known as a designer of apartment buildings. But Short redesigned the station house with guidance from McAdoo and a committee of veteran police officers.
The building got mixed reviews – some critics considered it a model station, others thought it overly dramatic. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the building landmark status Dec. 15, 1998.
R. Thomas Short was prolific, with many notable buildings to his credit, including Red House, Alwyn Court Apartments, and the Studio Building.
Tenderloin Precinct Vital Statistics
- Location: 134 W 30th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
- Year completed: 1908
- Architect: R. Thomas Short
- Floors: 5
- Style: Medieval Revival
- New York City Landmark: 1998
Tenderloin Precinct Suggested Reading
- Wikipedia entry (Tenderloin district)
- Citywide Traffic Task Force website
- NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report (1998)
- Traffic Control Division documents