Federal Building, Port Angeles, WA
Location: 138 W 1st St, Port Angeles, WA 98362
Historical & architectural significance
The Port Angeles Federal Building, completed in 1933, is architecturally and historically significant. Its construction followed almost 30 years of civic effort to obtain a federal building in the city. Constructed originally to house a US Post Office and various federal agencies, today it stands as a well-preserved example of a classically-derived "mongrel." The exterior facade is a combination of Georgian, Federal and Renaissance Revival styles.
Located at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles is protected by a natural sand spit that extends across the waterfront of the city. The city of Port Angeles, now the commercial center of the Olympic Peninsula, was originally a sandy refuge discovered by early Spanish, Greek and English explorers in their search for trade routes. It was named by Spanish explorer Francisco Eliza in 1791. He called it "Puerto de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles" or "Port of our Lady of the Angels." The first white settlers arrived in 1857 and soon began trading with the Hudson Bay Company located across the Strait at Victoria, British Columbia.
Port Angeles has the distinguished characteristic as having been once the "second national city," Washington, D.C. being the first. This distinction is largely due to the efforts of Victor Smith, a special agent of the US Treasury from 1861 to 1862. Smith persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to sign an executive order designating the two townsites of Port Angeles and Ediz Hook a federal reserve for public use, reserved for a lighthouse and military purposes. A second executive order directed that the 3,520 acres should be withheld from "sale or location of any kind whatsoever."
Creation of the federal reserve, however, restricted settlement in the area. In 1889, when the Washington territory achieved statehood, many of the region's settlers moved from the shore areas into the reserved timberland to live as "squatters." The town won election as the seat for Clallum County in 1890. In the early 1890s, the government opened the reserve and auctioned lots, for a minimum of $5, giving squatters rights to purchase their claims. However, a number of lots were kept in reserve, and it is on some of this property that the Federal Building was later constructed.
The industrial era in Port Angeles, supported by the timber industry, has its origins in the collaboration of the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and Crown Zellerbach Corporation in 1912 to service the demand for lumber in California and abroad. As the pulp and paper, plywood and related forest product industries expanded, the town of Port Angeles continued to grow.
Ironically, the "second national city" did not have a federal building when it was designated. In 1913, the first efforts were made to secure a federal building for the town. It was not until 1931, following World War I, that a site for a federal building was finally chosen from one of the few plots still held in the federal reserve. At that time, Congress allocated $130,000 for construction of a new U.S. Post Office and Federal Building.
The first post office had been established in early 1861 under the name Cherbourg, when Port Angeles was a small trading post. In 1862, the first official postmaster was appointed and the name Port Angeles was given to the office. Mail was brought in by canoe or sailing sloop, and distributed over the counter at a small store. Occasionally, the mail was reportedly delayed as poker-playing captains deliberately ran aground on the sand spit to finish a game. Until the construction of the new federal building, the Port Angeles Post Office did not have a permanent home. It moved from building to building as the post masters changed and as the service outgrew each subsequent existing facility.
In 2008, the building was re-dedicated to Richard B. Anderson. Born on June 26, 1921 in Tacoma, Washington, Anderson attended high school in Agnew and then graduated from Sequim High School. He joined the Marine Corps on July 6, 1942, and in January 1944 his unit--E Company, 2nd Batallion, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division departed the U.S. for the Marshall Islands. On Roi Island, Private First Class Anderson was hunting enemy snipers when he threw himself on a live grenade in a shell hole to save the lives of three friends. Anderson was evacuated to a ship but died of his wounds on February 1, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart.
History of the site
Although the site selected for the Port Angeles Federal Building was part of federal reserve land, a number of citizens had constructed buildings on individual lots there over the years. In early January 1931, the Deputy Customs Collector notified each of these people by letter, indicating that the property, "...owned by the United States, will be required shortly by the Government for the purpose of erecting a post office, and you are further notified to vacate said site and to remove any improvements thereon...within sixty days from the date of this notice." A letter from the Deputy Customs Collector to the U.S. District Attorney in Seattle, dated February 25, 1931, states that all the "squatters" had removed or were in the process of removing their buildings from the site, except for a Mrs. M.E. Troy.
Minerva E. (Lewis) Troy was the daughter of Freeborn S. Lewis, who came to Port Angeles in 1887 from Omaha, Nebraska, as a physician with the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony. Dr. Lewis settled on property at First and Oak Streets, which was part of the federal reserve. He made several attempts to purchase the property (lot 8 and the eastern 16' of lot 9, block 32), following an act of Congress that allowed settlers to apply to purchase land on which they had settled and made improvements. However, these applications were not successful because block 32 remained federal reserve property, despite other lots being released for purchase. Minerva Troy inherited the property from her father upon his death in 1917, and she continued to attempt to purchase it. When the government prepared for construction of the Federal Building on the property, Troy fought for the right to purchase the property. Unsuccessful, she finally relinquished her claim. A 1949 newspaper profile of Minerva Troy notes that in return, "union carpenters and other mechanics built her present home at 118 West Second Street."
- Architects: Wetmore, James A.; Louis A. Simon
- Construction Dates: 1931-1933
- GSA Building Number: WA0028ZZ
- National Register of Historic Places Landmark Status: National Register Listed