Campaign aims to keep Philly police headquarters around

A grass-roots effort is under way to save a distinctive piece of Philadelphia’s history.

University of Pennsylvania master’s degree candidate Kimber VanSant helped establish the “Save The Roundhouse” campaign and its Facebook page. She says the current police headquarters at Eighth and Race should be preserved as a testament to its architecture and its pre-cast concrete construction.

“A lot of people see these kind of buildings as disposable and from a different era,” she said. “This one is particularly special and should be kept and reused by the city.”

Tom Gibbons, who was a police officer and then a police reporter for the Inquirer, says he would like to see the building preserved, but it does have its problems.

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“it’s not a functional design,” he said. “It was modern for its time, but the rooms were actually cut into pie-shaped rooms so they weren’t very functional. As the police department grew bigger, the building really started to become cramped.”

VanSant acknowledges the building known as the Roundhouse is over capacity. Once people are moved out, she says, good space planning could redefine the building and preserve it as a great example of 1960s architecture.

And Gibbons, who spent most of his adult life in the building, says it has a certain charm.

He recalled one night when he had a partner for his writing assignment.

“I remember working the midnight to eight shift more than once in there when a rat or two would come right out of the vents and come right onto the floor of our offices,” he said.

There are no immediate plans to demolish the building, and a replacement is still in the planning stages.

VanSant says the goal is to have the building declared a national historic landmark.

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