Point Roberts Border Crossing - A Brief History

In 1846, Point Roberts was designated a U.S. territory. Point Roberts is a peninsula of approximately seven square miles, extending south from the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada, into the Strait of Georgia. With Water on three sides, and Canada to the North, Point Roberts is geographically isolated from the U.S. mainland, and can only be reached by plane, vessel, or by traveling 26 miles via a Canadian highway.

In the early 1900s, a revenue cutter would occasionally stop at Point Roberts, and perform whatever customs work was required. From 1919 - 1936, Customs Mounted Inspectors would journey to Point Roberts two or three times a month throughout the year.

Our First "Border Station"Old border crossing 1 - Point Roberts WA

Well, not exactly a station. A tent made from a canvas tarp strewn over a fallen log, the most rudimentary of border facilities, "sheltered" customs officers from approximately 1919 to 1934. In this photo, Walter "Pa" Davis poses with several Customs Patrol Inspectors. During the early 1900s, it would take local residents two days to travel by wagon from Blaine to Point Roberts! No microwave ovens or computer terminals to record license plate numbers with yet, but then again, there were no cars crossing either!

Point Roberts WA - US -Canada border station 2

 

The Second Border Station in the 1930's

In 1934, during the great depression, this two room wood building was privately built for the elegant sum of $165. It was then rented back the the government for the next seven years for use as a customs border station. Walter "Pa" Davis, was the first Deputy Collector appointed to Point Roberts, serving from 1936 to 1957.

 

Intermittent Station at Alternate RoadIntermittent border station Point Roberts WA border crossing info

There are two Canadian roads crossing into Point Roberts, Alternate Road being two miles east of the primary crossing. In the 1960's, Canada customs maintained a border station here. This small wood structure on the U.S. side of the border was used for intermittent inspection purposes, but was not kept as a permanent facility. U.S. and Canadian operations ceased at this crossing in 1975.

 

Border station Point Roberts WA 1940'sHome Sweet Home, in the 1940's

Finally, in 1941, the government decided to purchase the station, paying $750 for the building and a one acre site. "Upgrading" followed, including expanded paving, and a coat of paint. The inspectors obviously took pride in their building - note the window boxes overflowing with flowers! The pride in keeping their building deorated continues until today with Immigration getting in on the annual event, with nicely planted baskets appearing every spring.

1960's Border station - Point Roberts WA

The Third Border Station

By the mid-1960’s, it was obvious Point Roberts was in need of a new border facility. This small, but adequate, station was completed in 1968.

 

US Canada border crossing station Point Roberts WAGrowing Pains...and an Expanding Border Station

In 1977, Canada widened the original one-lane entrance road to two. This major development led U.S. Customs to undertake numerous expansion projects at the crossing. In 1979, additions appeared at the front and rear of the building, as well as two additional primary booths, a third lane for trucks, and a covered secondary area. By 1987, there was a new office, lobby area, and search room added. The window boxes of the past may be gone, however, note the tradition continued with the hanging flower pot and small planting beds.

Current border station - Point Roberts WA Todays New Border Crossing

Increasing demands on the old border facility required new answers to old problems. The new facility which stands today, opened July 21, 1998. Today Point Roberts embodies a hybrid, transnational personality peculiar to an American town, where in 1998, seventy percent of the 12,000 people using the crossing were Canadian commuters. Point Roberts continues to grow in at its own pace. Meeting the needs of its full time residents as well as its part timers as best it can. One thing about Point Roberts that is certain, the people of this town are deeply committed to living in a dual national environment where the border, and their neighbors to the North are a significant part of their lives.