Sunday, December 14, 2008

Goshen Police Booth

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The old Goshen Police Booth. Located at the corner of Main St. (Lincoln Highway) & Lincoln Avenue. Dave Zollinger photo.

Right in the center of Goshen, in the Elkhart County Courthouse square, you'll find one of the town's more interesting buildings.
The Goshen Police Booth was built in the late 1930's to protect the city's two banks, which were located diagonally opposite of one another. At that time city officials had good reason to fear that auto bandits travelling the Lincoln Highway might strike Goshen. In 1933 members of the John Dillinger gang had raided police facilities in Auburn, Indiana, and Peru, Indiana, stealing several machine guns and other weapons, ammunition, and bulletproof vests. The gang later robbed a police station in nearby Warsaw, Indiana, of guns and bulletproof vests. In 1934 Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd robbed a bank in South Bend, Indiana, killing a law enforcement officer in the process. With Auburn located to the east of Goshen, Peru to the west, Warsaw to the south and South Bend to the north, it seemed likely that the Dillinger gang, and other gangsters of the day, were passing through Goshen while en route to commit their crimes.

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The solidly built police booth has bullet proof windows with firing ports. Dave Zollinger photo.

John Dillinger, and most of the other infamous members of his gang, were already dead or in prison by the time that the Goshen Police Booth was completed in 1939. But that didn't stop the Goshen Police Department from putting their new facility to good use.

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This photo, believed to be from the 1940s, shows local emergency service personnel and their vehicles posed in front of the police booth. The car on the right is from the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, middle is from the Goshen Police Department, and ambulance is on the left. Ambulance crewmen may have been from local funeral home. Rectangular building in the left rear is a public restroom that no longer exists. Photo from archives of Goshen Historical Society.

The booth became the department's "front desk", so to speak, and was manned by an officer 24 hours a day. When a citizen wanted to make a report to the police they went to the booth, rather than a desk at the police station. This arrangement also meant that there was always an officer on duty in the city's central business district, watching over the downtown.

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Goshen Police Officer shown manning the booth, year unknown. View through window appears to be looking east on E. Lincoln Avenue. Photo from Troyer Studio Collection, Goshen, Indiana.

Note: For more information on the old Motorola police radios shown in the above photo, follow this link: Motorola History - Early Police Radios
Thanks to my friend and fellow amateur radio operator Dave Menges WB9TEN for the information.

In earlier years when there was also an officer on foot patrol downtown, a system of call-lights was controlled from the police booth. When the officer in the booth needed to contact the officer on foot patrol he would turn on the call-lights and the foot patrol officer would know to call the booth. Later on a radio in the booth allowed the officer to stay in touch with patrol cars. The police booth was manned by officers of the department until about 1970.

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Although most of the gangsters it was built to protect against were gone by 1939, the Goshen Police Booth provided useful service to the community for nearly 30 years. Dave Zollinger photo.

So even though the the gangsters that it was meant to protect against were mostly gone by the time it was finished in 1939, the Goshen Police Booth provided useful service to the community for nearly 30 years.
It's a unique part of Goshen, and it's history is tied directly to that of the Lincoln Highway.

For a map to the Goshen Police Booth use the one for the Elkhart County Courthouse. The booth is located at the southeast corner of the courthouse square.


Remington said...

Your blog is great.

Dave Zollinger said...

Thank you.
I appreciate that very much.
I have plenty of new material waiting to be posted. Hopefully I can get to it soon.


Randy, ex-Goshenite said...

Dave, did you go to Goshen High School and, if so, what year did you graduate? Your name sounds familiar.

Dave Zollinger said...

Randy, I did. 1978.

Anonymous said...

Just curious...does any one know what the turret was armed with??