Jamie Frieling with Brian Cofrancesco
The Police Barracks was built c. 1820-1830 as a two-story building, nine bays wide on the ground floor and eight bays wide on the second floor, with an exterior kitchen to the rear. The building is constructed primarily with light red brick laid in Flemish bond and locally harvested squared stone. Alterations to the Flemish bond brickwork made the façade appear less uniform, which must have encouraged someone to cover the brick with lime wash with yellow ochre pigment.
There are four rooms on the first floor, although later partitions subdivide these spaces. The largest room, at the center of the first floor, served as the “Men’s Ward” and “dormitory,” as shown on an 1897 plan of the Barracks. This room has several original windows – with square, diamond set iron bars in an iron frame to protect from intrusion – on the western (rear) wall as well as window and door openings onto the eastern gallery porch. These windows date to the twentieth century, but the openings correspond with the 1897 building plan.
The northernmost room on the first floor is the second largest on the ground level. Strap hinges secured the heavy door into a beefy frame; this space was originally a lockup. The room was later transformed into a bathroom and is now used for equipment storage. An open concrete stairway with rails has been added in this room, supplementing the original exterior stair at the southernmost end of the building. Traditional finish joinery, including rails that are tenoned and pegged to round topped posts, on this staircase suggests the persistence of older building techniques into the twentieth century. In the 1897 plan, the southernmost room on the first floor was called the “guard”; the room adjacent to it known as the “store” and was probably also used as a holding cell for prisoners, as indicated by the presence of another heavy door frame with a substantial lock.
There are three rooms on the second floor, all of which are two structural bays long. The largest is the one farthest to the north, labeled on the 1897 plan as the “chapel,” generously lit by six windows.
The hipped roof was fully exposed on the interior. Its framing system includes principal and common rafters, a ridge beam, five trusses, and tie beams, the original members being planed and beaded. Over the years, the roof has fallen into disrepair, which has caused the deterioration and destruction of the building’s interior. Recent surveys have deemed the Barracks building too dangerous to restore, even though it remained in use for police changing stations and storage. Although the building will not be salvaged, its position as one of the important civic buildings in early Falmouth deserves recognition.