Port Angeles Federal Building, Port Angeles, WA

SITE

The building is located in the Central Business District (CBD) of Port Angeles on the corner of West First and Oak Streets. It is surrounded by low-scale commercial structures except at the back of the building where there is a small, surface parking lot and a bank that rises steeply to the south. The primary facade of the building faces in a northeasterly direction toward West First Street.

The building is situated near the northern corner of its 150' x 140' site, with a driveway entry to the southeast (off West First Street) and behind the building (to the southwest, off Oak Street). The original site plan indicated concrete curbs at the driveway entries and grass along the sides of the building, which are extant today. Window wells, to provide daylight into basement offices, are surrounded by wrought iron and bronze railings. There are small beds of flowering annuals on both sides of the building.

EXTERIOR

The Port Angeles Federal Building was designed in the new era of government building that followed the Great Depression (1929-30). The building program was initiated with the development of public works programs designed to stimulate local economies. Federal design policies of standardization that were implemented before the Depression continued to be stressed. Typically, building designs were generated from a collection of "sketches" by the Treasury Department that provided standardized floor plans and details for selection. Where possible, individual treatments were allowed for exterior facades.

The Federal Building in Port Angeles is relatively small-scaled, but handsome. The exterior design of the building combines aspects of Georgian, Federal and Renaissance Revival styles, and appears to be a product of the Treasury Department's building standardization program. Drawings for the building were signed by Department of the Treasury Acting Supervising Architect James A. Wetmore. Wetmore, however, was trained as an attorney and probably did not directly influence the office's design work.

Essentially T-shaped in plan, the building stands approximately 39' tall from grade at the front to the top of the tiled mansard roof. It measures 100' across the primary facade and 44' along the two-story sides. The 28' tall, single-story portion attached to the back facade is 41' along the sides and 66' across the back.

All facades of the building are faced in a medium texture matte red brick laid in English bond, with flush joints of cream mortar. The reserved facades are decorated with smooth-faced Wilkeson sandstone quoins at the outside corners, and are accented horizontally with a tooled Wilkeson sandstone water table, belt course, frieze, and denticulated cornice. At the main entrance, two heavy, rusticated Wilkeson sandstone columns and entablature support a carved sandstone eagle.

The primary facade is divided into seven bays, with two end bays of approximately 19' in width that extend 6" forward of the main facade. These end bays are accented with sandstone quoins and two carved stone cartouches each. The center bay contains the main entrance with a pair of double hung windows at the second floor above. The other six bays each contain one tall, arched multi-light window, and a pair of double-hung 4:4 windows above on the second floor. The sills are typically of smooth Wilkeson sandstone. The arched windows are articulated by Wilkeson sandstone springers and keystones. All of the windows are wood-frame and sash, with multiple lights and relatively thin muntins. The fenestration pattern is continued around the building in the three bays of the side facades and two end bays of the back facade.

The single-story portion at the back of the building originally served as the post office workroom. Although faced with the same brick as the main portion of the building, it does not exhibit any of the sandstone corner details, or horizontal banding accents, except at the water table band and parapet cap. The windows are large, awning-type, steel sash with sandstone sills and no decorative elements. There is a concrete loading dock and steel-framed canopy at the center of the back facade. Above the center of the original workroom a large shed-roofed monitor skylight is still evident at the roof level, although it is concealed by a drop ceiling on the interior.

STRUCTURE

The building structure is a reinforced concrete frame with exterior brick masonry bearing walls. The roof above the attic is timber-framed. The first, second, and attic floors are one-way reinforced concrete pan joist slabs.

The original non-bearing interior walls are constructed of hollow clay tile covered with painted plaster; newer walls are constructed of studs sheathed in gypsum wall board. The flat roof areas, originally of built-up roofing at the lower flat roof and copper panels at the flat portion of the main roof, are now covered with a fully adhered single-ply (EPDM) membrane. The mansard roof section of the main building is sheathed with interlocking red terra-cotta tiles.

INTERIOR

Although the US Postal Service moved out of the building in 1978, the original post office lobby has remained virtually unchanged since its completion. The original finishes are intact and well-maintained. The floor is fire-flashed tile, with marble wainscot and window stools. The entry vestibule, located just inside the main entry door, is painted cast-iron and glass. The window sash and door and window trim is dark-varnished wood. The original postal screens are painted wrought-iron and the walls, ceilings, and exposed beams are smooth painted plaster.

At the east end of the public lobby, marble stairs with wrought-iron balustrades and varnished wood handrail, rise to the second floor corridor. The double-loaded second floor corridor remains virtually unchanged with similar finishes to that of the main lobby, but without the wainscoting. The second floor and basement offices are in the original configuration except for the addition of an enclosed exit stair and elevator at the east end of the building. The basement corridor and offices are of similar finishes as the second floor.

Ceiling heights throughout the building range from 14' at the first floor to 10.5' at the second floor and basement, with exposed structural concrete beams in some areas. The remodeled office and toilet areas have the ceilings suspended below the structure. In some areas, the added fire sprinkler system piping is visible at the ceiling levels.

HISTORICAL & ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BUILDING

The Port Angeles Federal Building, completed in 1933, is architecturally and historically significant. Its construction followed almost 30 years of civic effort to obtain a federal building in the city. Constructed originally to house a US Post Office and various federal agencies, today it stands as a well-preserved example of a classically-derived "mongrel." The exterior facade is a combination of Georgian, Federal and Renaissance Revival styles.

Located at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles is protected by a natural sand spit that extends across the waterfront of the city. The city of Port Angeles, now the commercial center of the Olympic Peninsula, was originally a sandy refuge discovered by early Spanish, Greek and English explorers in their search for trade routes. It was named by Spanish explorer Francisco Eliza in 1791. He called it "Puerto de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles" or "Port of our Lady of the Angels." The first white settlers arrived in 1857 and soon began trading with the Hudson Bay Company located across the Strait at Victoria, British Columbia.

Port Angeles has the distinguished characteristic as having been once the "second national city," Washington, D.C. being the first. This distinction is largely due to the efforts of Victor Smith, a special agent of the US Treasury from 1861 to 1862. Smith persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to sign an executive order designating the two townsites of Port Angeles and Ediz Hook a federal reserve for public use, reserved for a lighthouse and military purposes. A second executive order directed that the 3,520 acres should be withheld from "sale or location of any kind whatsoever."

Creation of the federal reserve, however, restricted settlement in the area. In 1889, when the Washington territory achieved statehood, many of the region's settlers moved from the shore areas into the reserved timberland to live as "squatters." The town won election as the seat for Clallum County in 1890. In the early 1890s, the government opened the reserve and auctioned lots, for a minimum of $5, giving squatters rights to purchase their claims. However, a number of lots were kept in reserve, and it is on some of this property that the Federal Building was later constructed.

The industrial era in Port Angeles, supported by the timber industry, has its origins in the collaboration of the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and Crown Zellerbach Corporation in 1912 to service the demand for lumber in California and abroad. As the pulp and paper, plywood and related forest product industries expanded, the town of Port Angeles continued to grow.

Ironically, the "second national city" did not have a federal building when it was designated. In 1913, the first efforts were made to secure a federal building for the town. It was not until 1931, following World War I, that a site for a federal building was finally chosen from one of the few plots still held in the federal reserve. At that time, Congress allocated $130,000 for construction of a new U.S. Post Office and Federal Building.

The first post office had been established in early 1861 under the name Cherbourg, when Port Angeles was a small trading post. In 1862, the first official postmaster was appointed and the name Port Angeles was given to the office. Mail was brought in by canoe or sailing sloop, and distributed over the counter at a small store. Occasionally, the mail was reportedly delayed as poker-playing captains deliberately ran aground on the sand spit to finish a game. Until the construction of the new federal building, the Port Angeles Post Office did not have a permanent home. It moved from building to building as the post masters changed and as the service outgrew each subsequent existing facility.

In 2008, the building was re-dedicated to Richard B. Anderson. Born on June 26, 1921 in Tacoma, Washington, Anderson attended high school in Agnew and then graduated from Sequim High School. He joined the Marine Corps on July 6, 1942, and in January 1944 his unit--E Company, 2nd Batallion, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division departed the U.S. for the Marshall Islands. On Roi Island, Private First Class Anderson was hunting enemy snipers when he threw himself on a live grenade in a shell hole to save the lives of three friends. Anderson was evacuated to a ship but died of his wounds on February 1, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart.

HISTORY OF THE SITE

Although the site selected for the Port Angeles Federal Building was part of federal reserve land, a number of citizens had constructed buildings on individual lots there over the years. In early January 1931, the Deputy Customs Collector notified each of these people by letter, indicating that the property, "...owned by the United States, will be required shortly by the Government for the purpose of erecting a post office, and you are further notified to vacate said site and to remove any improvements thereon...within sixty days from the date of this notice." A letter from the Deputy Customs Collector to the U.S. District Attorney in Seattle, dated February 25, 1931, states that all the "squatters" had removed or were in the process of removing their buildings from the site, except for a Mrs. M.E. Troy.

Minerva E. (Lewis) Troy was the daughter of Freeborn S. Lewis, who came to Port Angeles in 1887 from Omaha, Nebraska, as a physician with the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony. Dr. Lewis settled on property at First and Oak Streets, which was part of the federal reserve. He made several attempts to purchase the property (lot 8 and the eastern 16' of lot 9, block 32), following an act of Congress that allowed settlers to apply to purchase land on which they had settled and made improvements. However, these applications were not successful because block 32 remained federal reserve property, despite other lots being released for purchase. Minerva Troy inherited the property from her father upon his death in 1917, and she continued to attempt to purchase it. When the government prepared for construction of the Federal Building on the property, Troy fought for the right to purchase the property. Unsuccessful, she finally relinquished her claim. A 1949 newspaper profile of Minerva Troy notes that in return, "union carpenters and other mechanics built her present home at 118 West Second Street."

Year
Start
Year
End
Description Architect
1931 1933 Original Construction James A. Wetmore
1982 Conversion from P.O. & Rehabilitation D & C, Region 10, Auburn, WA
1984 Elevator & Miscellaneous Improvements Arai/Jackson, Seattle, WA
1986 Fire Sprinkler Modifications D & C, Region 10, Auburn, WA
1986 Miscellaneous Improvements D & C, Region 10, AUburn, WA
1987 Wet System Installation Fire Systems West, Auburn, WA
1987 Fire Protection Installation Chute Engineering
1989 HVAC Modifications Church/Suzuki, Seattle, WA
1996 Masonry Cleaning & Restoration Boyle Wagoner Architects
2004 Basement Remodel (Border Patrol) CNJA Architects
2007 Security & elevator upgrades
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13