Driving down Ridge Road in Homewood, few motorists pay much attention to the building located on the north side of the street just east of Center Avenue. Even fewer still may know the history behind the building that has been there for 80 years.
The building located at 1154 Ridge Road was built to house the south headquarters of the Cook County Highway Police ― later the Sheriff’s Police ― which was charged with patrolling the unincorporated areas of the county since being established in 1922.
The Cook County Board approved contracts for the construction of the building on Sept. 11, 1936, and work began in short order.
Plans called for the 40-foot-by-80-foot brick building to include a courtroom, offices, restrooms and a lock-up on the first floor. The basement included a garage capable of accommodating 10 squad cars. Within a little more than six months, construction was completed and an open house was held for area residents on March 30, 1937.
No doubt, the move by county officers to the new building was a great improvement over their prior quarters in Homewood. Since 1923, highway deputies had reported to a converted boxcar located on Dixie Highway just south of 175th Street. Newspaper reports of the time termed it a “shack” unfit for modern law enforcement.
For the next four decades, the Ridge Road station served as the hub of the sheriff’s police activities in the South Suburbs. In 1975, Sheriff Richard Elrod began plans to close the facility and centralize administrative functions to the new sheriff’s department headquarters in Maywood. Patrol officers were given their own squad cars, which then alleviated the need for them to report to the station for daily roll calls.
The county eventually gave the Ridge Road building to the village of Homewood. Some thoughts were given to converting it to a senior or community center, but these ideas never came to fruition. The building remained vacant for years and the Homewood-Flossmoor-Glenwood Jaycees even held a haunted house there for few years in the early 1980s.
In 1985, the village leased the building to the South Suburban Association of Commerce and Industry, now the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, which renovated the building and used it as its offices until 2005.
Since 2005, the building has been occupied by the E-Com 911 Dispatch Center. E-Com is the intergovernmental agency that provides police, fire and emergency medical services dispatching to more than 105,000 residents in Homewood, Flossmoor, Glenwood, Hazel Crest, South Holland, Riverdale and Country Club Hills.
After eight decades, emergency dispatching is a fitting reuse for a building that saw so much “action” in its early years as a police station.
Jim Wright is the vice president of the Homewood Historical Society.