U.S. Land Port of Entry - St. John, St. John, ND
Location: 10935 ND-30, St John, ND 58369
The U.S. Land Port of Entry -- St. John was included in the Multiple Property Submission (MPS) for U.S. Border Inspection Stations and Associated Points of Entry, States Bordering Canada and Mexico (Border Station MPS). As demonstrated in the history description section, the St. John Port of Entry retains most aspects of integrity and meets the registration requirements in the MPS to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A and C, at the local level of significance, period of significance 1931. It retains most of its original program elements, and well demonstrates the historic characteristics of Border Station MPS Property Type Number 3: 1 1/2 story office with garage wings and separate living quarters (now removed).
The various elements of the St. John Port, including the primary building, the porte cochere, and the two attached garage wings, are original (with alterations) and were constructed in 1931. The overall building program remains intact and is an example of the Colonial Revival design style with Georgian design influences. Upon the primary unit and its wings, this Colonial Revival detailing makes itself present through the combination of: a strongly symmetrical lengthwise massing featuring a taller centered mass flanked by identical lower wings; English bond brickwork; classically inspired Tuscan influenced column designs; side gabled primary building; ogee style cornice molding with cornice returns at the gable ends; gauged brick jack arching often with centered keystone; and a centered chimney.
Because of the rural, if not isolated locations of many of the border stations, the inspection stations originally often included living quarters, either within the primary building or as standalone residences. Originally located to the north and south of the St. John Port of Entry were two identical, freestanding residences, also of the Colonial Revival design style. Where the inspection station features Georgian inspired motifs, the residences were of the "Cape Cod" inspired Colonial revival design. The architectural style features that were associated with the now relocated residences that associated them with the Colonial Revival style include a combination of: side gabling; ogee molding underscored with a running fascia; cornice returns; clapboard cladding with corner boards; and a rectangular brick chimney placed off center upon the ridgeline. The residences were disposed of in 2008 and relocated to nearby St. John, ND.
The original renderings for the St. John Port depict a "Property Type Number 4" (2-story, 4 or 5-bay Special Office Building) design that was never built upon the site. The St. John Port and two residences are, however, identical in plan to the Ambrose, North Dakota Port of Entry. If it was the Ambrose renderings that were employed, then the St. John IPort is true to the original form in regards to integrity.
The renderings for the St. John Port of Entry date from 1932 (1931), when James Wetmore was the acting Supervising Architect of the Treasury. Wetmore however, had no formal architectural training, and effectively directing Wetmore’s office during this period was Louis A. Simon, who had worked with the Treasury continually since 1896. Most likely, it was Simon who developed the designs for the St. John and Ambrose Inspection Stations. Simon, trained in architecture at MIT, was instrumental in the image of government projected by its public buildings, an image derived from classical western architecture, filtered perhaps through the English Georgian style or given a regional gloss, but one which continues to operate in the collective public vision of Government. Simon was unwavering in his defense of what he considered a "conservative-progressive" approach to design in which he saw "art, beauty, symmetry, harmony and rhythm" [American Architect and Architecture, August, 1937, vol. 151, p. 51].
In 1933, Simon became the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, a post he held until 1939. During Simon’s tenure, the Department of the Treasury was the largest architectural office in the United States, with over 700 million dollars worth of various Post Offices, Border Checkpoints, Custom Houses, and other Federal buildings. The construction of United States border stations, inspection stations, and customs and immigration inspection stations were approved by legislation under the Act of June 25, 1910. The spate of Public Works Administration (PWA) era of construction, and the construction of this particular border station, initially resulted from the Public Buildings Act of 1926, a Congressional enabling act that doubled the number of U.S. Federal buildings in existence.
The St. John Port of Entry evolved from the contexts of Prohibition (1919-1933), the increased popularization of automobile travel, and the Public Works Administration that developed out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Contributing also to the need for an increase in Border Stations by 1919 was the imposition of head taxes and literacy tests on Canadian immigrants beginning in 1917 that had resulted in a sharp increase of illegal entry attempts into the United States.
The St. John Port of Entry has retained a fair amount of Colonial Revival design features and still successfully projects its intended association of American architecture at the international border. The main port building retains its original location in a pastoral, farm-like setting with rolling hills and mature pine specimens that is relatively unchanged from its period of significance. In feeling, the St. John Port of Entry successfully conveys its intended set of values and images, which are now historically associated with PWA-era Federal architecture as a whole. It features the Colonial Revival design style often used for governmental buildings during this time; one that was consciously associated to the American heritage and American past since the 1876 Centennial celebration which triggered a desire for an understanding of American architectural lineage. The Colonial Revival style, as depicted upon the inspection stations, was simultaneously intended to evoke feelings of patriotism, Americana, and strength. The style was therefore seen as the semantically appropriate one for the gateway and often first building viewed by immigrants, foreign tourists, and returning residents entering the United States.
Significance within the related Multiple Property Submission
The St. John Land Port of Entry was included in the Border Station MPS. The St. John Port is significant within all three historic contexts identified in the Border Station MPS, as follows:
- Within historic context no. 1, U.S. Border Stations, History and Function, the U.S. Border Inspection Stations designed from 1930-1939 and constructed from 1931-1943, are associated with a series of important events in United States history that would qualify them for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A.:
- The imposing of head taxes and literacy tests upon immigrants from Canada and Mexico beginning in 1917,
- which, immediately resulted in widespread evasions;
- The passage of the Volstead Act and the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages between 1919 and 1933, that led to increased smuggling across international boundaries;
- Enactment of the Keyes-Elliot Public Buildings Act of 1926 that funded construction of U.S. Government Buildings in many states; and
- The increase in public mobility from the popularity and affordability of the automobile in the 1920s, that changed the volume of traffic entering the U.S. from water ports-of-entry to land border crossings.
Within historic context no. 2, U.S. Post Offices, Courthouses, Federal Buildings and other government buildings designed and constructed by the Treasury Department, 1864-1939, and historic context no. 3, U.S. Border Stations, Inspection Stations, and Customs and Immigration Inspection Stations, U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico, 1931-1943, U.S. Border Inspection Stations represent an important and distinguishable property type related by function, location, chronological era, and design characteristics that would qualify them for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C. The common function was that the buildings were used as U.S. Border Stations, containing the functions of inspection, customs, immigration, or quarantine. The common location was that the stations were along the U.S. international boundaries with Canada and Mexico, or a major port of entry near the international boundary. The chronological era was quite narrow, 1930-1940 for design during the era of the Public Works Administration and 1931 to 1943 for construction. The common design was based on a series of five basic plans developed and designed by the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, which varied according to the specific size and function of the property.
Designs dating between 1930 and 1940 have been identified for at least 59 Border Inspection Stations, and at least 48 of these constructed between 1931 and 1943 are believed to still exist as of the year 2006. This is by far the largest and most cohesive group of U.S. Border Inspection Stations that share reason for authorization, design, plan, era, and function. The U.S. Inspection Station’s St. John, North Dakota, is representative of one of the property types identified in the Border Station MPS: Property Type Number 3: 1 ½ story office with garage wings and separate living quarters. The Property Type Number 3 design was used often and appears in extant Inspection Stations not only in North Dakota but also in Vermont, New York, Maine, and once in California, where it is done in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Most of the type-3 designs were done in the northern states. The steep pitch roof combined with brick cladding of the primary building has been referred to as "Northern Style" design qualities in regards to the border stations. Such designs are ubiquitous in the northern states, where these features allow the building to buffer the affects of cold climates, rain, and snow.
According to the Registration Requirements of the Border Station MPS, "To be considered at a local level of significance, the main building must retain most of the seven aspects of integrity." As demonstrated in the Description section of this National Register registration form, the U.S. Inspection Station’s St. John, North Dakota retains integrity of location, setting, feeling, workmanship, and association, although the aspects of design and materials are diminished by the front addition. Certain modifications may have occurred in response to changing traffic volume or staffing that is part of the changing historic function of the border inspection stations, and would not necessarily disqualify the properties from registration. They may, on a case-by-case basis, lower the level of significance of a specific property from national to state, or state to local. Such acceptable alterations include:
- Alteration or removal of detached garages or residences, in cases where the main building retains integrity.
- Interior modifications.
As demonstrated in the Description section of this National Register registration form, the U.S. Inspection Station’s St. John, North Dakota, retains most of the seven aspects of integrity and therefore meets the registration requirements in the MPS to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A and C, at the local level of significance, period of significance 1931.
- Architects: James Wetmore
- Construction Date: 1931
- GSA Building Number: ND0531AN
- National Register of Historic Places Landmark Status: National Register Listed