U.S. Border Station-Main Building, Tecate, CA

The U.S. Inspection Station complex at Tecate, California is a customs and immigration station on the U.S./Mexico border. The complex is located on California Highway 188 (Tecate Road) which runs across the border into Mexico. A small commercial area is across Tecate Road to the west, and directly to the south lies a sixty foot wide landscaped strip. Further south lies the Republic of Mexico and the commercial area of Tecate, Baja California.

The Inspection Station complex, constructed in 1933-34, consists of the main U.S. Inspection Station building and two separate buildings designated on the original plans as the Immigration Inspector's Residence and Customs Inspector's Residence. These two houses are situated to the south of the main building. They are a significant part of the entire Inspection Station complex and are included in the listing of the complex on the National Register of Historic Places. Separate Stage 1 and Stage 2 reports for these two houses were completed but do not appear in the Building Preservation Plan (BPP) database.

The buildings all possess several primary characteristics of the Spanish Colonial Revival style: red 'mission' tile roofs, exterior walls finished in stucco, and shaped parapet walls.

The U.S. Inspection Station building is 133-feet in total length, the central portion of which is a two-story building with a full basement. Two, one-story wings are attached to the north and south ends of the main building, resulting in an overall 'L-shaped' plan configuration, with a non-functional porte cochere attached to the west side (front) of the building. The North Wing, originally the Inspection Shed, and the South Wing, originally the Public Health wing, each now house miscellaneous inspections and customs office, detention and service functions. A separate room (originally indicated as the 'cyanide chamber') projects from the southeast corner of the South Wing.

Changes to the building's exterior include the replacement of the original porte cochere, which served to cover several vehicular inspection lanes at the front of the building, with a new steel canopy. The steel canopy was replaced in 2003-2005 with a reconstructed porte cochere based on the design of the original. Other exterior alterations completed during the 2003-2005 rehabilitation included the removal of a lunchroom addition, several original doors and windows, and portions of the historic buildings east wall to accommodate a large addition east of the historic building. Changes to the site included a new Vehicle Inspections Building with a new canopy to the east of the station; a new Commercial Truck Inspection Operation facility; expansion of the original 2-acre site into a 14-acre site to accommodate the added inspection requirements; new Primary and Secondary traffic lanes, and modifications to parking, landscaping and circulation.

At the Inspection Station's interior, the main entrance doors lead to a central public space with stairs to the second floor and basement, and a toilet room located at the east end of the space.

The second floor is divided into storage spaces. These rooms have sloped ceilings reflecting the gable roof of the building. The west wall and the western half of the two end walls are exposed, painted brick.

The South Wing has undergone minor alterations due to changes in function. The original plan for the wing shows a central Disinfecting Room at the east end with a Dressing Room and Bath at each side, and two Undressing Rooms and Toilet Rooms adjoining. An Assembly Room and Office are shown at the west end. The current use of the wing for overall office use required the removal of some showers, fixtures, and counters, the addition of a few partition walls and changes in the floor and wall finishes.

Originally designed as an open space for Immigration and Customs inspection, the North Wing has been divided by the addition of a central partition wall. In the north end, the original exposed brick walls have been plastered, and ceramic floor tile were removed and replaced with VCT tile overthe original concrete floor. A dropped ceiling has been installed below the original ceiling.

A partial basement is located below the central portion of the building, and is divided into three areas by unplastered concrete walls - a central boiler room, a machine room and a fuel room (currently used for storage).

ALTERATIONS: Modifications have been made to the exterior and interior of the building. These include:
Exterior Alterations:

1. The original porte cochere at the west elevation of the main building was removed ca. 1962 and replaced with a steel canopy.

2. The wood paneled overhead doors at the west elevation of the North Wing have been removed and replaced with windows and a door.

3. The south window opening on the east elevation of the main building has been filled in. Two other windows on this elevation have been replaced with smaller windows and the remaining opening filled in.

4. All the windows in the building were removed ca. 1986 and replaced with new, matching windows.

5. One of two window openings on the Second Floor south elevation was removed and replaced with an emergency egress door.

6. A new lunch room addition with an external stairway to the roof was added in 1991 at the rear (east) of the building, eliminating the original exterior doorway and hood, and two of the four windows original to this elevation.

7. In 2003-2005, a large pedestrian processing wing was added to the north and east sides of the historic building. The 1991 lunchroom addition was removed, along with several doors and windows of the original structure to create a hallway into the new addition.

Interior Alterations:

1. Most of the original light fixtures have been replaced with surface mounted fluorescent fixtures.

2. The original wood and concrete floors have been covered with carpet or vinyl tiles in many areas.

3. Fixtures have been removed from toilet rooms.

4. Partition walls and dropped ceilings have been added at both of the Wings.

5. Showers have been removed in the South Wing.

6. Several original panel doors throughout the building have been replaced with new flush doors, and interior windows in the wing have been removed.

7. Partition walls have been added at the second floor.

The U.S. Inspection Station complex in Tecate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, significant both for its role in Politics and Government as a custom house, where U.S. policies for international political and economic relations have been directly implemented on a continuing basis since 1933, as well as for the significant impact the building and its function have had on the Hispanic ethnic heritage of the region, having been the site of the immigration of thousands of new citizens of Hispanic heritage. In addition, the U.S. Inspection Station has been instrumental in the economic trade of the region, and symbolic of the exchange of cultural ideas and traditions.

The Inspection Station complex is also significant as an example of the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture as interpreted by the Depression-era federal building program under which it was constructed. The U.S. Inspection Stations at Tecate, Calexico and San Ysidro are examples of the adaptation of regional architectural style and details to suit an important government function. The Period of Significance dates from 1933, the beginning of construction. The Tecate Border Station, even with alterations and additions, retains a high degree of its original design integrity.

Description Architect
1933 1934 Original Construction James A. Wetmore (Acting Superv'g)
1962 Inspection Shed converted to Office
1962 Miscellaneous interior layout changes.
1962 Steel canopy added.
1962 Original Porte Cochere demolished.
1974 Miscellaneous Interior Alterations
1977 Electrical Alterations
1991 1992 Lunchroom Addition Platt Architects, Inc.
2003 2005 Pedestrian processing addition Harley Ellis Devereaux
2003 2005 Rehabilitation, including reconstruction of porte cochere Harley Ellis Devereaux
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13