A few walls of the station still stand, but they too, will soon be torn down and thrown away along with the piles of debris from the demolition.
The building represents a part of Kodiak’s history, but most people who spent time in the building are glad to see it go.
Darrylynn Ford, assistant to the police chief, was hired in May 2010 and was only in the building for two months before the department moved to its new home.
“It was the worst two months of my life,” she said. “My predecessor warned me to make sure to bring a tote for my snacks so the mice wouldn’t eat it. … It’s funny because I always thought it’s such an eyesore and they needed to tear it down. Now that it’s going to be torn down, it’s kind of sad. It has a lot of memories for people in Kodiak.”
Kodiak resident Tom Sweeney worked as a police officer for the city in 1956, the year the city bought the building, then known as the Shupp, Chase and Tolbert Building after the construction firms that built and used it.
The building housed the police department, jail, courthouse and city offices before later being turned over entirely to the police department.
“It was built for a construction company, but used as a jail,” Sweeney said. “The portion where the most recent police department was, was a city hall. On the back of that toward the chief’s office was a municipal courthouse.”
In the 1950s, there was one big jail cell. It could house about 20 people and was used as the “drunk tank” or for people serving two to three days. The department didn’t have a separate cell for women and juveniles, so the police officers took it upon themselves to build two cells out of chicken wire and plywood.
Eventually, the department outgrew the building. Lt. Ray Ellis said every room in the building was used for multiple purposes and multiple people. The sergeant’s office had one chair for three sergeants.
“It’s not sad at all,” he said. “I don’t know of anybody who ever worked in there that’s going to shed one tear.”
Most of the items KPD wanted to save had already been taken to the new location, but Ellis saved the pole with the red light that sat on top of the building.
The pole served as an old signaling device before the department had radios. As police officers drove around on patrol, they could keep an eye on the light. If it was turned on, they could go to a call box or go to the station to get calls from dispatch.
“Chief (T.C.) Kamai told me to make sure I saved the pole,” Ellis said. “My plan is to have it sandblasted and repainted. I’d like to put a light on top of it and put it in front of the (new) building on a concrete block.”
The light was out of order and not used, but Ellis remembered hanging an American flag from it after Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our flagpole had fallen down and we felt it was necessary to put a flag on top,” he said. “I actually went up there and jury-rigged a pulley system and kept the flag up there for 30 days after that tragedy.”
The other item that was removed from the property was the tsunami high-water marker, which will be put back in its original location once the site is cleared.
The demolition started Jan. 8, and is about 75 percent complete, city engineer Glenn Melvin said.
Before the demolition, the city had to take certain steps to ensure the Kodiak Fire Department building, which was attached to the police station, would not be affected during the process.
“We had to do seismic improvements in the existing fire station because it was not up to seismic code,” Melvin said. “Seismic bracing was put in prior to the demolition. It helped make the building stable.”
The city also had rewire the fire station because all of its electrical equipment had been located in the old KPD building.
Rick Ryser, owner of Golden Alaska Excavating LLC and in charge of the project, said he made the decision to start the demolition from the back of the building to prevent drivers from being distracted, although it hasn’t stopped people from walking by and taking pictures through the back fence.
“It protects everybody from always looking in,” he said. “Everybody wants to see. It’s kind of distracting.”
Working from the back also prevented debris from entering the roadway and gave workers more space for the trucks. During the demolition, Ryser found a piece of his own family history. Written on the ceiling of one of the jail cells was “Larry R,” written by his brother after a one-night jail stint in 1977 for a traffic violation.
“One of them in there had to write something 1,000 times for what he did, so they had a pencil, and he wrote his name on the ceiling beam,” he said.
Ryser has also been careful to save pieces of the jail for the Baranov Museum, where his mother, Alice, works as the archivist.
“It’s part of the history of Kodiak, definitely,” museum curator of collections Anjuli Grantham said.
Ryser saved the jailer’s window, made with bulletproof glass, and plans to grab one of the locks from the jail doors.
“That’s one of the reasons I really wanted to do this,” Ryser said. “I was born here and we were raised near here. That’s my stomping ground. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. I really wanted that project because my childhood was right there.”
Ryser said the project will only take about seven days longer to clear and clean the site, but it’s weather dependent.
Once the property has been cleared, it will be grated and graveled.
Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at firstname.lastname@example.org.