Chief Mtn BS Pump House, Babb, MT

The Border Station, together with the associated Garage, is located on a somewhat irregular rectangular lot, approximately 162’ x 192,’ that is leased by the General Services Administration from the National Park Service. The Pump House and original water tank are located across the highway to the east.

The Chief Mountain Border Station is a symmetrical one and one-half story building with a basement. Historically the building was divided functionally in half, one side for customs and one side for immigration, with each side being a near mirror image of the other. While the upper portion of the building is of platform frame construction, the chimneys, two field stone terraces, and two coursed rubble stone columns supporting the canopy overhang, all of which are similar in appearance to the random rubble stone used for the foundation. It is a T-shape building approximately 94’ x 64’ in size, has several dormer windows, and has a multitude of roof surfaces incorporating side-gable, hip, and shed roof forms. Many of the windows consist of operable inner and outer windows, with the outer windows being a multi-light window. The building retains its historic functions and currently has five apartments within it. There is a circa 1941 historic-contributing detached garage associated with the building, which is similar in overall appearance. Across the highway, there is a small pump house designed in the same style and built at the same time as the border station.

The Chief Mountain Border Station rests upon a random rubble stone foundation that is exposed on nearly all facades. As the lot slopes down towards the back of the building, the foundation becomes increasingly more exposed, allowing the building to be level, and terminates with a walk-out basement. Several decorative iron air vents, with a diamond-shape latticed design, are located within the foundation on the north and south facades directly under the building’s siding. There are two field stone terraces at each end of the building that serve as porches for the outside entrances to the apartments. Historically the Chief Mountain Border Station was covered with horizontal wood lap siding, with vertical wood siding found in all of the gable ends, as is still evident on the garage. The building is currently clad with horizontal aluminum siding, however, which mimics lapped wood siding in appearance and texture, and continues into the gable ends. All of the siding is dark brown with trim elements painted white. Wood shakes, historically painted green but currently more natural in appearance due to age and weather, cover all roof surfaces of this multiple-roof form building. Likewise, a variety of security devices can be found on many roof surfaces, as necessary for the proper functioning of this building, as well as several vent caps along the roof’s ridges. The building has four stone chimneys, which appear to have been made from the same stone as the foundation. While a variety of window types exist, nearly all of the exterior windows are multi-light wood casement windows and appear historic to the building. The building does not have gutters and downspouts.

Corresponding to the generally symmetrical exterior appearance of the building, the interior plan of the Chief Mountain Border Station is also rather symmetrical and was historically divided into two spaces – one half for custom purposes, one half for immigration purposes – that were a mirror image of each other. These two spaces are still a near mirror image of each other, as the interior of the building has seen only a few alterations other than mechanical and electrical upgrades, and retain much of their historic fabric.

The first floor of the Chief Mountain Border Station contains two one-bedroom apartments, a residential hallway, public restrooms, and the building’s public space. The public space is accessed through the building’s main doors on the east façade and a door with an access ramp on the south façade. The public space is divided into three areas, with immigrations in the northern half, customs in the southern half, and lobby space in the middle. The plaster walls are all painted white, with doors and window frames being of natural wood, and the floors are carpeted with a low pile carpet. The ceiling appears to be its original height, but all historic light fixtures have been replaced with fluorescent fixtures. A field stone-faced fireplace is located towards the back of the room, and is near the hallway that leads to the public restrooms. The two public restrooms – one for men and one for women – are located across the hall from one another, continuing the symmetrical plan of the building. To the west of the restrooms is a door that leads to the private spaces of the building. Beyond this door is an entryway facing the main staircase and a hall that leads to the two one-bedroom apartments; this entryway is also accessed by an exterior door on the south façade of the building. The staircase appears original as it is from the same type of wood found on other trim elements throughout the building. The two one-bedroom apartments on the first floor are essentially identical and are mirror images of each other. An additional three apartments are located on the second floor of the building – two studio apartments and a one bedroom apartment – with the two studio apartments being historic to the building and a mirror image of each other. The two studio apartments are located to the west of the interior staircase, towards the back half of the building, down a long hallway. The remaining apartment on the second floor is a one bedroom apartment that is not original to the building and was carved out of existing attic space over the office area.

The basement of the Chief Mountain Border Station is accessed from both the interior staircase and an exterior door on the west façade of the building. This walk-out basement contains its historic spatial arrangements, including holding cells and storage areas. The floors are concrete and the walls are random rubble stone painted white. The basement’s post and beam construction is visible, which has a menagerie of electrical wiring and pipes running through its ceiling.

There are two outbuildings associated with the Chief Mountain Border Station, and these are both historic contributing resources. The detached Garage is in a similar style and built with similar materials as the main border station building. It is approximately 31’ x 19’, was built in 1941, shortly after the construction of the border station, and follows the slope of the lot. It is a one-story, three-bay garage, with an open three-bay garage area below, accessed from its west façade to accommodate the lot’s sharp slope. The Garage has three wood overhead garage doors and has eleven, six-light casement windows, with three double sets found on the west façade, and one triple set on both the north and south facades of the building. The gable roof is covered with wood shakes and the building is clad with the same aluminum siding circa 1990 as found on the Border Station, installed horizontally except at the gable ends where the aluminum siding runs vertically. There is a small stone retaining wall to the north of the Garage, which separates two driveway areas. This detached Garage deviates from the standard as the typical plan for border stations from this era called for two attached garage wings off of the north and south elevations of the border station building.

The Pump House was designed to hold mechanical equipment. It is similar in style to the other two buildings. It has a concrete foundation in a rectangular plan. It is a single room structure covered with wood shakes on gable-end, steeply pitched roof. It is also clad with the same horizontal aluminum siding.

--Excerpts from the National Register form for the Chief Mountain Border Station & Quarters, NRIS number: 06000744, listed 5/20/2008.

The Chief Mountain Border Station and the Pump House were built in the National Park Service Rustic style in 1939. The detached Garage was built in 1941 in the same style. These buildings were constructed for the support and purpose of monitoring the border crossing between two national parks -- Glacier National Park in the United States and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. The development of this need arose from the rise in visitation and automobile traffic which paralleled the development and expansion of the road systems in Glacier National Park, specifically the completion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in 1933.

Designed by A. Paul Brown and built in 1939, the Chief Mountain Border Station is a good representative example of the National Park Service Rustic architectural style. The one and one-half story building was financed by the United States Treasury Department and fits well into its rural park setting. Despite its ties with the United States Government and the National Park Service, it appears none of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s work relief programs took part in the building’s construction. There is documentation that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played a major role in construction at Glacier National Park from 1934 to 1942, but no evidence has been found that they were involved with the Chief Mountain Border Station. Additionally, no evidence has been found that the Works Progress Administration or the Public Works Administration contributed on this undertaking.

Located within the popular Glacier National Park, the Chief Mountain Border Station was one of forty-eight border stations built in the 1930s along the entire United States-Canada border from Vermont to Washington, and at selected locations along the Mexican border. Before the construction of these facilities border and custom procedures took place in other federal buildings, such as post offices and court houses, as the majority of federal funding for border facilities went to major seaport cities. It was not until 1920 when border stations away from bodies of water were seen as necessary, partly due to new Congressional legislation, but more so due to the profound impact to mobility for bootleggers, alien-smugglers, tourists, and the rest of the population that was greatly affected by the automobile and federal and state programs to improve roads. To improve the physical circumstances under which customs and immigration laws were enforced along the borders, over $700,000,000 was appropriated for the construction of new public buildings during the 1930s, including border stations, under control of the Treasury Department.

These new border stations had a prototypical architectural style and site layout, making use of a symmetrical building with a canopy extending over the main elevation where traffic would stop. The interior of the building was divided equally between custom and immigration purposes, with long counters separating general space at the entrance of the building upon which paperwork was processed. The rear portion and any upper floors of the building were used for living quarters of the customs and immigration inspector’s families, and basements generally contained storage areas and detention cells, with the necessary system equipment of the building. The border stations were provided with garage space, generally consisting of two separate wings, for storage of the inspector’s own vehicles on the northern wing and secondary inspections of traveler’s automobiles in the southern wing. Commonly consisting of several bays, the floor of at least one of the bays on the southern wing would contain a long and narrow pit from which an inspector could examine the underside of a vehicle. The exteriors of these buildings were constructed primarily in brick in a simplified Georgian Colonial Revival style, a popular style in both private and public sectors the United States society at the time. However, there were a few locations where the standard plans were somewhat modified to reflect their cultural or physical surroundings, including the Chief Mountain Border Station. Due to its location within Glacier National Park and design assistance from the National Park Service, the building housing the facilities at Chief Mountain incorporates the standard plan of border stations, but uses a more rusticated building style to be further in harmony with the surrounding area. While employing overall symmetry in its plan, the Chief Mountain Border Station and Quarters varies from the standard plan of border stations. Instead of incorporating the two standard garage wings as found on other border stations, the Chief Mountain Border Station has a single detached three-bay garage directly to the south of the building. This is due perhaps to the somewhat steep slope of the surrounding land, making two garages on either side of the building difficult to build and access. Additionally deviating from the standard plan is the building’s use of its canopy. Rather than having a canopy extend from its main elevation, Chief Mountain’s canopy is incorporated to the overall mass of the building, as one heavy gable-end roof covers both the building and the canopy in one form. A third, smaller, building is located on the property, known as the “pump house.” This structure is similar in style to the main border station, and houses mechanical equipment.

The Chief Mountain Border Station has been in continuous use since the completion of its construction in 1939, and has retained its original use throughout the years. Serving as both a border station to inspect traffic traveling between both sides of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and as a multiple unit residence for the inspectors patrolling the international border, this noteworthy building has seen few alterations over the years. The building retains much of its historic integrity, is in good condition, and illustrates one variation of the border station design from the 1930s.

--Excerpts from the National Register form for the Chief Mountain Border Station & Quarters, NRIS number: 06000744, listed 5/20/2008.

Description Architect
1939 Original Construction A. Paul Brown
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13