U.S. Border Station, Richford, Richford, VT
The Richford Border Station occupies a 46,917 square foot site approximately 336 feet south of the Canadian border on the west side of Vermont Route 139, a two-lane state highway. The site is located in open farmland with scattered houses approximately one mile north of the village of Richford. The Canadian border station, located on the east side of the highway, is visible to the north. Railroad tracks border the property to the west. A farmhouse and barn are located on the property to the south. The station building 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 downward to the west. The inspection station is the only building on the site.
As originally built, the station building occupied the southeastern corner of the site, with a three-lane canopy projecting over a concrete drive in front of the building. The area to the east of the station is presently surfaced with asphalt. Concrete curbing, some of which remains in place, defined a rectilinear parking area at the south edge of the concrete drive, and formed an above grade drainage trench to the south of the station. Most of the site to the north and west of the station was originally grass, including an island on axis with the canopy used for the station's flagpole, now removed. Non-original granite curbing is located in several areas. The station's planting plan, dated March, 1934, proposed that elms be planted to the west of the building and at its northeast corner and that a hedge of forsythia, lilac and mock orange was to be located at the south end of the east drive, but it is not known if the plan was
executed. These features are absent from the earliest known photographs of the station dated 1958.
Of the three stations of similar design included in this report, the one at Richford is the earliest, but most poorly preserved example. The simple gable-roofed core with hipped-roof wings is constructed throughout of American-bond brickwork which included raised quoins at the corners. Unlike its conpanion stations, window and door openings were trimmed with buff-colored cast stone. The building retains much of its original sash and eave mouldings, although the latter are covered with aluminum. The core and wings stand atop a continuous raised concrete basement. The wings, which contain full basements accessible through pedestrian doorways on the west facade, are each four bays wide by one bay deep, with entry on grade to the first floor at the east. The existing one-lane steel-framed canopy, which replaced the original wood canopy in 1972, projects eastward from the east facade of the center block. It is slightly larger in height than 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 on the first floor spaces of the core, and basement throughout. Public offices of Immigration and Customs occupy the east half of first floor, divided from administrative offices of the respective bureaus to the west by an original glazed partition. A compact stairwell, flanked by small rest rooms originally intended for the public, is located in the center of the west half, connecting the basement and second floors. The second floor spaces have been extensively reconfigured as administrative offices and support spaces. The basement, which was originally used for storage and mechanical space, retains its original uses. The interiors of both garage wings have been renovated to provide additional office space and new public rest rooms, the latter of which are approached on grade at the east through a small internal hallway.
Except where noted in the descriptions of zones, interior finishes are standardized throughout.
As early as 1938, the station was renovated. The original cells were eliminated, the glazed partition between the first floor general and private offices was added, a new linoleum floor was installed on the second floor, and the exterior brickwork was painted white. By 1956, a cattle inspection dock had been added to the south end of the south garage wing. This feature was removed within the past ten years. The original steam heating system, which was replaced with a hot water system c. 1990, was converted from coal to oil in 1958. In 1972, the windows and door of the east facade of the core were replaced with the existing two-lane tubular steel-frame structure. This project included the construction of the existing concrete walk below the east entrance door and installation of the existing aluminum inspection booth. New granite curbing was installed in 1975 as part of a repaving project. In 1976, the south bay of the north wing was converted to an office, and the garage wings and wood trim covered with aluminum siding. By 1981, the original red and green slate roof was replaced with asphalt shingles, two bays of the
south garage wing were converted to restrooms, and the original garage doors were replaced. In the recent past, the second floor has been renovated. This work included replacing the original second floor sash of the north facade. The paint was removed from the brickwork in the 1970's by sandblasting.
The Vermont border station located at Richford is one of twelve surviving complexes erected between 1931 and 1937 along the Vermont-Quebec border. This handsome Colonial Revival building, designed by the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury and constructed in 1934, shares common technical, stylistic and programmatic features with other stations constructed at that time.
As a group, the border stations are closely associated with three major themes in twentieth century American history: Prohibition (1919-1933), the popularization of the automobile, and the Depression of the 1930's. The stations are also associated with a massive public building program that nearly doubled the number of Federal buildings, coupled with the extensive rebuilding of Vermont's road system following the Great Flood of November 3, 1927.
Today the large concentration of contemporary architecturally-related border stations surviving in Vermont is exceptional within the context of the United States. Of this group, the Richford station is nearly identical in design to those at West Berkshire and North Troy, but the least well preserved. The border station is one of two masonry public buildings located in the town of Richford. It retains many of its original character-defining features, notably morphology, masonry detailing and and most fenestration, and projects an iconographic image of American architecture at the international border.