The Precinct House in 2005
The precinct house in 2005 lovingly restored, but still proudly showing its battle scars.
|Part of the title sequence of Hill Street
Blues, shows the Maxwell Street Precinct House. It is located at the
junction of Maxwell Street and Morgan Street in Chicago. The building, the
opening shots filmed near it, and the markings of the police
cars, all suggested the series was set in Chicago.
The producers however always maintained it was not meant
to be anywhere other than a big city, where you had good, bad and
indifferent weather. It was intimated that it was probably in the East and
that it had large areas of urban decay. The name itself was taken from a
tough area in Pittsburgh called 'The Hill', close to where Bochco had gone
Note in the above screen shoot taken from the series, the Morgan sign has been moved around and now points East down Maxwell. It has been replaced with a fictitious Hill Street sign, which is in fact pointing South (as can be guessed by the strong shadow).
As well as those famous views of the building, much of the opening or 'establishing' shots (especially those trademark aerial shots of moving railway stock), were filmed in and around Chicago. However, most of the studio and outdoor acting scenes, were filmed in Los Angeles California.
Sadly research by the webmaster has been unable to locate
any of the props used by the various studios where filming took place over
the years, some of which no longer exist themselves. A few outside
locations have been identified in LA, but they no longer exist either.
Picture courtesy of the Chicago Public Library
The Maxwell Street Precinct Station House has stood on this spot since at least 1889. For many years it was one of Chicago busiest police stations and had an illustrious career until its closure in December 1997. At that time, the building housed the Vice Control Section and the Organised Crime division.
By the turn of the century (1900) the area around the station had become one of the most heavily populated, and dangerous precinct in Chicago. It is said there were some 125,000 people in just two square miles, speaking a large number of different languages. The above picture show the Precinct House, as it was around that time.
The immediate area soon attracted the name “Bloody Maxwell” due the number of homicides and the activates of 'organised crime', preying on the many resident immigrants. During the twenties the area became the centre, for the production and distribution of bootleg alcohol, for the infamous 'Genna' family.
It has been published elsewhere that it is possible that something like half of Maxwell's police officers were on the bootleggers payroll 1920, receiving around $15 a week. Lieutenants and captains from neighbouring districts receiving at least $500 a week. Eventually the bootleg operation failed, due in the main to most of the Genna family being murdered by other gangsters.
After the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the area became
a little more 'law abiding', but by the fifties people had already begun to leave this
neighbourhood. In the early sixties large areas were cleared, to make way
for the University of Illinois campus.
In 1961 the police services was reduced from 38 to 21 districts. The
station survived these cuts, to become one of just a few
19th Century precinct houses, to still be active into the late twentieth
However Maxwell Street Precinct Station House will now
live on and is now the home of a new type of police officer - The officers
of the University of Illinois Campus Police
The webmaster proudly standing on the very steps Frank walked
down every night (while a scruffy
little man in the back of the patrol car asks "what are you doing up there Dog's Breath?"
Below are photos of the building I took in 2006, both by day and as so often in HSB, by night
If you wish to photograph it yourself, please first ask them at the door, or you could get yourself arrested.
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