Architectural Style of U.S. Border Inspection Stations

Colonial Revival: What It Is and Why It Was Chosen

The Colonial Revival style was consciously associated with American heritage as early as the 1876 Centennial celebration, which triggered a desire for understanding America's architectural lineage. Photographs and drawings of Georgian-period colonial styles were printed and widely distributed to the country's architects in 1898 in a series by The American Architect and Building News. In 1915, the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs included many photographs of colonial buildings that led to a wide understanding of Colonial Revival prototypes.  Following America's involvement in World War I, the nation's architecture was strongly influenced by its European roots and a sense of nostalgic historicism as well as a wave of patriotism for all things American. As a result, many buildings designed between the two World Wars (1919-1941) featured Colonial Revival design elements, often originating with America's colonial powers, England, France, Spain, and Holland.

Character-defining Features of the Colonial Revival Style

  • Symmetry and centeredness, as seen in: Placement of recessed, affixed wings at either side of larger primary building; Arrangement of bays across the front elevation; Arrangement of counters, one each for customs and immigration officers in a centered lobby space; Centered placement on either single or double entry doors; Centered porte-cocheres; Centered or symmetrically placed chimneys
  • Accentuated entries
  • Ogee-style cornice and gable molding underscored by fascia boards
  • Paired multi-light, wood frame double-hung windows
  • Shed dormers
  • Side-gabled building parallel to street
  • Gable returns
  • Gauged brick jack arch molding often featuring centered keystones over entries and windows
  • Hipped roofed wings
  • Porte-cochere treated as the "porch," with detailing such as classical columns and balustrades
  • Running course or American bond exposed brickwork
  • Color scheme of terra-cotta (exposed brick) with white accents
  • Five-ranked windows (Georgian-inspired feature)

Occasional Colonial Revival features include:

  • Bullseye windows
  • Elaborated single-bay gable dormers with classically detailed engaged columns, gable returns, and decorative windows with latticework headers
  • Gambrel roofs
  • Dentil molding
  • Quoins at corners
  • Brick stringcourses
  • Copper-roofed bay windows
  • Urns at porte-cochere corners

Variant Styles and Their Character-defining Features (Spanish Colonial Revival, Pueblo Revival, Log Cabin)

Naco, Arizona, Border Station

Just as the PWA had a policy of acknowledging the regional styles of a given area of the country, so too did the United States Treasury with the border inspection stations. Colonial Revival, which represents American heritage and values, is the default and predominant style of border inspection stations, especially in the northeast where the majority of border inspection stations of this era were constructed. In Montana, border inspection stations are designed to look like log cabins. Spanish Colonial Revival, which was the southwest's answer to Colonial Revival, is used in that part of the country. In Arizona, there is one Pueblo Revival border inspection station. All of these styles, in various ways, point to the heritage and lineage of the early United States, its first peoples, and its early settlement. Despite stylistic variations, the majority of border inspection stations maintain symmetry of the facade and its components, including adjacent, lower-level wings; this massing itself is a Colonial Revival feature.

Last Reviewed 2015-11-25