U.S. Border Station, West Berkshire, VT
The West Berkshire Border Station occupies a 104,176 square foot site immediately to the west of Vermont Route 108, a two-lane state highway. The site, bordered by the Pike River to the west, is located in open farmland approximately two miles north of the settlement of West Berkshire, a cluster of houses in the town of Berkshire. The Canadian border station, located on the east side of the highway, is visible to the north. Several isolated private houses are visible in other directions. 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. Two single-family, detached cottage residences, one of which remains, were located to the northwest below the station building. (See VT0852BW)
As originally developed, the station building occupied the southeastern corner of the site, with a two-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. A gravel driveway, which has been abandoned, descended the slope to the north of the building, forking to provide access to the building's basement and the east end of the cottages, crossing a brook at a concrete bridge between the cottages, and returning to highway near the north boundary of the property. The bridge is extant. Concrete curbing, 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 and around the cottages was originally grass, now overgrown with brush beyond the immediate vicinity of the station.
Of the three stations of similar design included in this report, the one at West Berkshire is the second best-preserved example. The simple, standard gable-roofed core with hipped-roof wings is constructed throughout of American bond brickwork. Like its companion station at North Troy, it lacks brick quoins at the corners, and most original window openings are trimmed with Vermont marble. The building retains much of its original sash and eave mouldings, although the latter are covered with aluminum. The original three-lane wood canopy extended from the center of the east facade terminated in an ornate wrought iron railing. The core and wings stand atop a continuous raised concrete basement. The core is a symmetrical brick block originally measuring five bays wide by two bays deep. Entry is made on grade to the first floor at the center bay of the east facade, and due to the steep slope of the site, at grade to the basement through a doorway in the west facade. On the west facade of the core, fenestration is not symmetrical, and a small brick addition housing the well projects from the north end.
The wings, which contain full basements accessible through garage 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 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, divided from administrative offices of the respective bureaus to the west by a glazed partition installed several years after the building was first occupied.
A compact stairwell, adjoined 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 contains additional administrative offices, two former detention cells now used for storage, and original storage areas. Second floor spaces are arranged around a small hall at the head of the stairwell. The basement, which was originally used for storage and mechanical space, retains those original uses. The north garage retains its original interior volume and 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.
The Vermont border station located at West Berkshire is one of twelve surviving complexes erected between 1931 and 1937 along the Vermont-Quebec border. This handsome Georgian Revival building, designed by the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury and constructed in 1935, 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 part of a massive public building program that nearly doubled the number of Federal buildings, and was 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 West Berkshire station is based upon the most widely used design in the state, and is virtually identical to stations at Richford and North Troy. Beyond projecting and iconographic image of American architecture at the international border, the West Berkshire border station is one of the major masonry public buildings located in the town of West Berkshire. It retains much of its original character-defining features, notably morphology, plan, masonry detailing and much fenestration.