U.S. Border Station, Beecher Falls, VT
The U.S. Border Patrol Station, Beecher Falls, Vermont, occupies a 32,896 square foot site immediately to the west of Vermont Route 102, a two-lane state highway. The border station sited at the north end of the village of Beecher Falls across the highway from a furniture factory. The Canadian border station, located on the east side of the highway, is visible to the north. The station is approached by all traffic directly from the highway, which is connected by a continuously paved area at the east. From the highway, the site slopes steeply upward to the west, requiring a deeply excavated area, supported by rubble stone retaining walls, for the building site. The building is the only structure on the site. As originally developed, the inspection station occupied the eastern edge of the site, with a three-lane canopy projecting over a concrete driveway below, bordered by gravel adjacent to the road. A narrow concrete drive led to the rear of the building between the north wing and retaining wall. Concrete curbing bordered the south edge of the gravel drive. Most of the site to the west was originally grass, as it remains. This handsome Georgian Revival building, constructed in 1932, is a gambrel-roofed, two-story brick structure flanked by hip-roofed, one-story brick garage wings. The core is a symmetrical brick block measuring five bays wide by two bays deep. The basement is located several feet below grade at the west due to the steep slope of the site behind an original concrete areaway. Entry is made on grade to the first floor at the center bay of the east facade, and down several steps to intermediate landing in the stairwell between the first floor and basement in the center bay of the west facade. The areaway provides daylight into the basement level at the west. The wings, which are built on grade, are each four bays wide by one bay deep, with entry on grade at the east. The existing two-lane steel-framed canopy, which replaced the original wood canopy in 1971, projects eastward from the east facade of the center block, and is of approximately the same footprint and height as the original. The interiors of public and private spaces within the core are consistently simple, functional, and non-monumental in character. Most original plans, volumes and finishes survive intact. Public offices of Immigration and Customs occupy the east half of first floor, with administrative offices of the respective bureaus adjacent to the west. A stair hall, located in the center of the west half, leads to the basement and second floors. Second floor spaces are arranged around a long, narrow, double-loaded corridor approached by the staircase, and include additional administrative offices, formerly public toilets now used by staff, a staff kitchenette, and two former detention cells now used for storage. The basement, which was originally used for storage and mechanical space, has been partially converted to office and other staff use. The north garage retains its original use. Two bays of the south wing have been converted to public rest rooms, approached on grade at the east through a small internal hallway. Except where noted below in the descriptions of zones, interior finishes are standardized. Walls and ceilings are typically finished with smooth painted gypsum plaster. A plain, bead-molded chair rail is used on the walls of the public area, and picture rails are used in the private offices. Painted wood baseboards are typically comprised of a quarter round shoe mold, and a two-part fascia washboard surmounted by a running cyma reversa mold. Doorways contain painted wood doors with five horizontal panels or two horizontal panels below a glazed panel, enframed within a running molded surround comprised of two flat fascia planes bordered with a deep cyma reversa mold along the interior edge, and a flat cyma recta mold at the perimeter. Some enframements contain operable glazed hopper transoms. Doors are hung with brass hinges, and operated with brass knobs with inset cylinder locks. Windows are enframed with simple running molded surrounds terminating in projecting bullnose stools. Original lighting fixtures have been systematically replaced with ceiling-surface mounted florescent units. Original painted cast iron radiators remain in use below many windows. Most floors are finished with non-original wall-to-wall carpet.
The Vermont border station located at Beecher Falls is one of twelve surviving complexes erected between 1931 and 1937 along the Vermont-Quebec border. This group of stations, constructed in response to Vermont's improved road linkage with Canada and enforcement of the federal Volstead Act, were designed by the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury. Today, the large concentration of contemporary, architecturally-related border stations surviving in Vermont is exceptional within the context of the United States.
The station at Beecher Falls, constructed in 1932, is among the earliest and best preserved of these, and was operational prior to repeal of Prohibition. The Georgian Revival design shares common technical, stylistic and programmatic features with its contemporaries, is nearly identical in design to the stations at East Richford and Highgate Springs, and the is most carefully detailed next to the station at Derby Line. Beyond projecting and iconographic image of American architecture at the international border, the border station is one of the major masonry public buildings located in the town of Beecher Falls. It retains most of its original character-defining features, including morphology, plan, masonry detailing and fenestration.