Border Station Common Ideas

Just what were the common ideas that informed the construction of the border inspection stations?

The influential 1928 report from H.A. Benner of the Bureau of Customs and J.L. Hughes of the Bureau of Immigration, which included interviews with working customs and immigration agents, presented a vision to the federal government for a 20th century border inspection station.

Historic border inspection stations continue to demonstrate federal authority and presence and retain overall integrity of location, setting, feeling, and association.

Officer's Border Station Residence, St. John, ND
Border Inspection Station
St. John, North Dakota

In 1928, Benner and Hughes recommended that the new stations be owned by the U.S. government, that they demonstrate federal authority and presence, and that they be sited, planned, and programmed to provide proper location and facilities. This was a crucial recommendation. Prior to creation of dedicated border inspection stations, immigration and customs officials were forced to improvise: leasing buildings, borrowing space from other government agencies, even doing their jobs out of tents, sheds, or the open air, often far from the actual border.

Benner and Hughes' core recommendations follow.

Proper Location

To inspect motor vehicles and control illegal immigration and smuggling at land borders, border inspection stations should be located before areas where traffic can disperse, or after points where major roads conjoin, and on the right side of inbound traffic.

Proper Facilities: The border inspection stations should demonstrate a certain level of protection from the elements for officers, motorists, and goods. Such protection is typically conveyed by a porte-cochere, garage, or inspection pit, with other functions placed efficiently within the building. This is in contrast to the earlier era, where motorists were forced to pull over in open air, and inspection officers had no place to review the contents of vehicles efficiently and securely. Sometimes the process even invited local gawkers.

Dignified and attractive surroundings: To represent the government's efforts to maintain employee morale and convey an impression of federal authority, border inspection station properties were "well sited" and designed to incorporate elements such as flagpoles and landscaped areas.

Fair and Adequate Service to the Public

St. Johns North Dakota Border Sations
Officer's Border Station Residence, St. John, ND

To represent the government's responsibility for the proper treatment of the public, border inspection station properties included features and spaces to protect goods against dust and the elements, provide privacy from onlookers, and serve the increasing volume of motor vehicle traffic with adequate capacity. So inspection stations were constructed with private detention areas and porte-cocheres with additional lanes.

Decent living quarters for officers: To represent the government's responsibility to retain quality officers, border inspection station properties often included separate living quarters downstairs, upstairs, or in detached residences.

Currently, border inspection station properties that retain integrity of design and materials and include living quarters that were on the properties before or until 1943 are considered exceptionally important and historically significant.

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