Since 1914, the Davidwache police department has sat on the corner of Spielbudenplatz and Davidstraße. Its history begins even earlier, however. In 1840, the Hamburg Senate ratified a police station in St. Pauli — at the time a rural suburb outside Hamburg’s city walls. On 15 October, 1840, after a short construction period during the spring and summer of that year, a small guard house on the corner of Kastanienallee and Davidstrasse was put into service. The nickname ‘Davidwache’ dates back to these days and simply refers to the building’s location. It took until 1970 to officially rename the police department as Davidwache.
In 1867, the police force needed reinforcements, making it necessary to move somewhere more spacious. Luckily, there was an unused military building by the Spielbudenplatz square perfectly suited to this purpose.
The new location
The prominent brick building strikes many a tourist’s eye. The police logo on its front has appeared in many TV programmes and films. It is, however, not the original building from 1868. Around the turn of the century, when the Reeperbahn amusement area expanded further, the police force too needed to grow. The Kriminal-, Sitten- und Ausländerpolizei, the police responsible for monitoring ‘crime, morals and foreigners’ (sic!), needed new offices and thus a larger station. Architect Fritz Schumacher, known for designing the Hamburg Museum, was assigned the task of devising plans for the new police station.
Discussions around the best-possible location arose. Residents and local business-owners favoured relocating the station to its former location on Kastanienallee, because the presence of police on the streets was perceived as bad for business.
In the end, police representatives were able to keep their station in its location — partly because there wasn’t proper space anywhere else.
Construction finished in 1914 and the building was handed over to the police on 10 December that same year. The building with its characteristic ceramic adornments is still used today.
The Reeperbahn at night
The police district around Davidwache spans only about one square kilometre and is responsible for around 14,000 residents. This makes it the smallest police precinct in Europe. However, police work never boring around Reeperbahn: the amusement area is no stranger to conflict, especially when things heat up and tempers flare.
Today, around 100 people work at the Davidwache station. Although an additional wing was built in the back of the building in 2005, it hasn’t affected the historical appearance of the station and the building is even under monument protection. It was awarded Hamburg’s ‘Building of the Year’ in 2005.
Davidwache in Miniatur Wunderland
In May, 2014, for the 200th anniversary of the Hamburg Police, as well as for the 100th anniversary of Davidwache, the Miniatur Wunderland presented a miniature version of Germany’s most well-known police department, with typical scenes from everyday police work.
Davidwache in movies
Along with the Reeperbahn street, Davidwache can be seen in numerous movies, for example St. Pauli Nacht (1999). In Polizeirevier Davidswache (1964) it even functioned as the namesake to a movie about police work in the red-light district of St. Pauli.
To learn more about Davidwache and the surrounding area, visit Hamburg Tourism.