U.S. Forest Service Building, Elkins, WV
The Forest Service Building is located to the northeast of downtown Elkins, West Virginia, adjacent to Davis and Elkins College and near Elkins City Park. The three-story, U-shaped building is designed in the Neo-Classical Revival style with four symmetrical elevations consisting of 5-course American bond red brick walls, limestone trim, and concrete base. The double-hung wood windows at all elevations have been replaced in-kind with wood 8-over-8 sashes. The flat roof features internal rain gutters, a large mechanical room, and an exposed interior-end chimney stack for the furnace. At the south elevation is a loading dock with a canopy (marquise) as well as a sub-grade entrance. Decorative features include wrought iron balconet railings, carved lettering that reads "United States Department of Agriculture," metal lighting, and a carved corner stone. Significant landscape features, although not original, include a flag pole and the Forestry Building sign.
The primary, north elevation is eleven-bays-wide with a central five-bay projection. An engaged portico, or pilastrata, expresses a higher style at the central projection with limestone pilasters at the upper two stories and brick pilasters at the first-story. A 4-step granite entry platform with concrete cheek walls extends along the central three bays of the pilaster portico. The entrance at the center bay features a two-leaf modern metal door with a curved transom. The window openings at the first story are curved under arched soldier-coursed brick lintels. At the windows on either side of the door and above curved door transom, the brick arches feature limestone keystones. Below those two windows are limestone sills and panels. The other two windows at the first-story are not as wide as the central windows and do not have the limestone keystone or limestone panel below the sill.
Between the first story and the second story of the central projection is a limestone belt course that also expresses the base course of the limestone engaged portico. The second-story windows feature flat limestone sills and lintels with slate panels, inset below the sill. The painted wrought iron balconet railings at this story are pronounced against the darker slate panels. At the third story, the windows have only limestone sills and no hint of paneling. The concealed steel lintels at this level allow for the limestone column capitals and limestone cornice to take prominence. At the cornice, an inscription reads, "United States Department of Agriculture."
The three bays at either end of the north elevation reflect the design hierarchy of the central pilaster portico. The pilasters only extend from the second to the third floor, are expressed in brick with limestone capitals, and are not featured on the first story. The first story windows are arched but do not have keystones. The bases of the pilasters blend with the limestone belt course between the first and second stories. The second story windows have limestone sills and lintels. Below the lintels, the brick is recessed to suggest a panel form where the slate panels existed in the central portion. The third-story windows are identical to those in the central projection and the prominent limestone cornice extends across the entire elevation.
Other elements of the north elevation include the limestone corner block at the base of the west corner embedded into the concrete base of the elevation. It is inscribed "Henry Morgenthau Jr, Secretary of the Treasury, Henry A Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Louis A Simon, the Supervising Architect and Neal A. Melick, Supervising Engineer, 1936." The concrete cheek walls were replaced in 1971 but two original lampposts remain. A handrail was added after 1989 in a complimentary style to the balconet railings. At either side of the entrance platform, two metal grilles mark light wells for the basement; a double-hung window is retained in the west well, whereas the east well has been converted to mechanical space.
The east and the west elevations are both five-bays-wide and reflect the same elements as the end bays on the north elevation: brick pilasters on the upper levels, limestone trim, same window configuration, and the same large limestone cornice. At the east elevation is an original entrance similar to the north elevation. There is a 4-step granite entry platform with concrete cheek walls at the center bay. The door and arched transom have been replaced with a modern system but the entry retains the soldier-coursed brick arch with limestone keystone. Two original sconces flank the entrance in a departure from the lighting design on the north elevation where there are lampposts. The concrete ramp and handrail were later additions. The entrance at the west elevation was created from an original window opening and does not have granite steps or historic lighting. Both elevations originally had two sub-grade windows in light wells. Only one six-over-six window remains in a light well at the west elevation, although the original pipe railing has been removed.
The south elevation is U-shaped in plan with a central recession that is deeper at the second and third stories than the first. The east and west ends share identical elements with the other secondary elevations: brick pilasters on the upper levels, limestone trim, same window configuration, and the same large limestone cornice that partially returns at the center. The six-bay, central portion of the south elevation is symmetrically arranged with three-bays on either side of the elevator shaft (the elevator shaft is not expressed with any architectural details). On the east and west return walls, there is one window on each of the upper stories. The windows at both the second and third stories are eight-over-eight, double-hung sash windows with a limestone sill and lintel. The upper central portion features a small limestone coping in place of the large limestone cornice found everywhere else.
The first story of the south elevation is not as deeply recessed as the second and third story above it. The openings at this level do not reflect the symmetry of the second and third floor, reflecting its utilitarian use as the entrance for rear loading dock. At the first story are three windows and three double-leaf doors. Of the three doors, only the west door that has been fixed-in-place is original. The windows are eight-over-eight double-hung sash, but are smaller than other first story windows and the top sash is flat, not arched. There is an original marquise, or canopy roof, that extends over a concrete platform at the center of the first-story. Above the marquise, the first-story wall terminates with a limestone coping.
At the west end of the south elevation, a window is located below-grade in a concrete light well covered with a metal grate. An additional two window openings in light wells are located below-grade at the east end; the double-hung sash is retained in one. The concrete light wells at the east are surrounded by an original pipe railing. Below grade are two double-leaf doors, one of which retains historic doors with wire glass glazing. The concrete steps and pipe railing leading to these doors are historic.
At the flat roof above the third floor is an historic chimney and an elevator mechanical room. The chimney continues the American bond brick coursing found on the elevations and a limestone coping. A rectangular mechanical room also features American bond brick coursing. There are two historic metal windows at the mechanical room. The south window is a horizontal pivot window and the west window is a partial horizontal pivot window. Both have limestone sills and both sashes have six lights. A historic, hollow metal door remains at the East Elevation of the mechanical room, leading to the flat roof. A limestone coping is located at the top of the wall. A copper scupper and downspout are located along the West Elevation of the mechanical room. The roof features an internal gutter system for the rest of the building. The lower roof at the top of the central first floor at the rear of the building is also a flat roof. Two scuppers at the south of the roof channel water to this lower roof. All of the roofing material has been replaced.
A garage structure was built to the south of the main building in 1962. It is a single-story structure with a gable roof and concrete floor. At the east and the west elevations are twenty sectional garage doors, ten on each side. Each wood door is composed of four jointed sections; each section has two panels. There are six plywood panels and two lights at each door. The doors are equipped with a tension spring cable drum that allows them to be lifted easily upwards, bending at each joint and rolling along an overhead track. The doors have metal hardware including a lock and two pulls. The openings include painted steel corner guards and a painted steel lintel. At the top of the elevations is a wood barge board with a copper gutter. Three downspouts are located on each of the east and west elevations.
The north and the south elevations are the gable ends of the garage. The brick walls have the same American bond coursing as the main building. At the top of the gable walls is a barge board. At the upper gable, original louvered gable vents with brick sills remain on both elevations. On the north elevation, the door and window openings have been infilled with louvered vents. On the south elevation, one original steel pivot window remains while the other window has been infilled with a louvered vent. All window sills are brick. A generator was installed in 2004 at the north end of the garage. Pavement connects the garage to the main building and driveway.
The Forest Service Building in Elkins, West Virginia was part of the depression-era Works Progress Administration (renamed as the Works Project Administration, WPA, in 1939). The WPA was the New Deal agency that employed millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of the Forest Service Building. The building houses employees from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service for the Monongahela National Forest. The Forest Supervisor manages the 921,150 acre Monongahela National Forest.
Designed by the U. S. Treasury Department's Supervising Architect Louis A. Simons with Supervising Engineer Neal A. Melick, the Forest Service Building served as a prototype for a federal building in Laconia, New Hampshire that houses the White Mountain National Forest. The Neo-Classical Revival style building is a three-story u-shaped brick structure with stone ornamentation.
The U.S. Forest Service Building is a contributing element of the Wees Historic District, a predominantly residential historic district located on the northwest side of the city of Elkins, Randolph County, in north-central West Virginia. Of the 382 structures located within the district, 286 contribute to the character of the district. Contributing resources are those that both date from within the period of significance of the district (1890-1950) and retain individual integrity. The main Forest Service Building and the garage are listed as separate resources with descriptions as follows:
325. rear, U.S. Forest Service Building, Sycamore Street, governmental dependency
Description: 1-story 10-bay brick garage building, built in conjunction with Resource No. , below
1 contributing building
326. 200 Sycamore Street (U.S. Forest Service Building), governmental
Description: large-scale Neo-Classical Revival-style flat-roofed brick governmental office building, built by the WPA; symmetrical 11-bay facade with centermost five bays defined by concrete pilasters and a frieze bears the inscription U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE; flat-topped fenestration; full cornice extends around perimeter of building; cornerstone bears the following inscription:
HENRY MORGENTHAU, JR., SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, HENRY A.
WALLACE, SERETARY OF AGRICULTURE, LOUIS A. SIMONS, SUPERVISING
ARCHITECT, NEAL A. MELICK, SUPERVISING ENGINEER, 1936
(Photo No. 19)
1 contributing building
The Wees Historic District is eligible under Criteria A, B, and C, however, the U. S. Forest Service Building is eligible as a contributing resource under National Register Criterion C. The National Park Service defines Criterion C as follows:
Property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.
In addition to the significance of the Neo-Classical Revival-Style design, the Depression-era WPA building represents the work of Louis A. Simons and Neal A. Melick. Louis Simons started working for the Supervising Architect's Office in 1896 and succeeded James Wetmore as Acting Supervising Architect in 1934. Simon favored simplified classical architecture with an emphasis in regional design. During his tenure, Simon designed hundreds of buildings and oversaw many projects designed by private architects until his retirement in 1941.
The significance of the Forest Service Building is further strengthened by its association with the illustrator Stevan Dohanos. Dohanos, a nationally famous illustrator and painter, was one of the Saturday Evening Post's most prolific cover artists. He also painted murals for numerous federal buildings and post offices. A letter dated November 5, 1937 states that Stevan Dohanos was commissioned by the Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture to execute a mural for the Forestry Service Building and would be visiting to look over the building and meet with citizens to consult about appropriate subject matter . Although two murals, "Forest Service" and "Mining Village" reside in the Forest Service Building, only one was specifically designed for this location. The mural "Mining Village" was originally painted for a post office but deemed too depressing. The mural was installed in the Forest Service Building along with the "Forest Service" mural depicting a fire lookout tower . Both murals were part of the Federal Art Project, a division of the WPA created under Federal Project One. The Federal Art Project created over 5,000 jobs for artists and produced over 225,000 works of art. Dohanos painted several murals for post offices from the Virgin Islands to Florida.
During WWII, the U.S. Army used the mountainous terrain of West Virginia for combat training as the conditions were similar to those in portions of Europe. In 1943, the Commanding General of the thirteenth Army Corps decided to locate Director Headquarters in Elkins and space was secured in the Forest Service Building. This program, named the West Virginia Maneuver Area, took place between July 1943 and July 1944.
The Forest Service Building is architecturally significant as a fine example of simplified Neo-Classical Revival style popular in the second quarter of the twentieth century. The building is a symmetric composition based on a u-shape plan. The three-story building's structural frame is sheathed in red brick and limestone with a concrete base. Classically inspired accents such as stone pilasters, cornice, window sills, and lintels provide decorative enhancements to the exterior. The structure continues to function as it was originally designed: an office building for the supervisors of the Monongahela National Forest.
The Forest Service Building retains a high level of integrity. The building sits in its original location adjacent to Davis and Elkins College and near Elkins City Park within the Wees Historic District. The setting includes open spaces, large trees and historic houses, as originally intended. The brick and limestone exterior articulate the Neo-Classical Revival style design that was popular in the 1930s. Although there have been modifications to the building, the overall integrity of the structure is intact. The most significant modifications include the addition of the garage, new windows, additional egress stairs, the addition of an accessible ramp and new entrance doors.
The overall feeling of the building has been maintained. The addition of window air-conditioning units scattered across each facade minimizes the original formal, and clearly structured, arrangement of the building's parts but the addition of window units is a reversible modification.
The physical features of the Forest Service Building continue to convey a sense of the building's historic character and its association with Depression-era development, the Forest Service, and architectural styles in government office buildings.