VINELAND – The outdated and out-of-service Vineland Police Department station couldn’t escape the long arm of the claw.

A demolition crew is razing the 54-year-old former police headquarters the city replaced with a $20 million facility, located just across Plum Street.

Full-scale demolition, launched last week, attracted spectators who spent their careers in the station’s maze of offices and cinderblock corridors.

Police Capt. Adam Austino has a lifetime of memories of the North Sixth Street station. He’s a second generation officer following in the footsteps of his dad, retired Lt. Robert Austino, who served the city’s police department for 30 years and is now Cumberland County Sheriff.

He watched excavator operator Gary Clarke of Delphi Contracting Inc. tear through an exterior wall, exposing what was once the detective department.

Excavator operator Gary Clarke of Delphi Contracting of Sewell demolishes a portion of the former Vineland Police Station that once housed the detective offices. April 9, 2021

“I remember when I was a little kid going in with my dad, it was better memories,” said Austino, who joined the department in 2001. “You know you get soured on something at the end, (the building) was in such bad, deplorable condition.”

It’s appears a case of history repeating itself.

Making a move

Back in 1964, then Mayor Henry “Bub” Garton launched an ambitious plan to transform the city block within Sixth, Seventh, Wood and Plum streets into a municipal civic center. His $1.9 million vision included a new police station as well as the seven-story City Hall, which at the time was reported to be one of the tallest buildings standing between Camden and Atlantic City.

The police headquarters was the first phase to come to fruition. Garton’s administration secured the approvals and $790,000 in funding that including municipal bonds to open the Vineland Public, Health and Welfare Building.

That permitted the police to relocate from its headquarters at the Boynton House, a former hostelry in the 600 block of Wood Street, that Garton dubbed an eyesore. The force consisted of 50 officers and 50 reserves.

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