Structure Type: built works - infrastructure - transportation structures - dams

Designers: Morin, S.G., and Son, Building Contractors (firm); Walker and McGough, Architects (firm); John Witt McGough (architect); S. G. Morin (building contractor); Bruce Morris Walker (architect)

Dates: constructed 1967

Boundary Dam Access Road
Boundary Dam, Metaline Falls, WA 99153

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This octagonal glazed observation building stood at the top of a 500-foot canyon wall on the east bank of the Pend Oreille River. Seattle City Light, developer of the nearby, $94 million Boundary Dam, selected the Spokane firm of Walker and McGough, Architects, to design the structure, its observation deck and parking area. Many dams constructed during the mid-century in WA State also included other amenities, such as the observation houses, as well as boating ramps and picnic areas, transforming utilitarian infrastructure projects into tourist and outdoor recreation attractions, as well.

Building History

Beginning in 1965, Spokane architects Walker and McGough designed this glass-walled tourist pavilion with an expansive view of a final dam built on the Pend Oreille River. On 04/23/1965, the Spokane Spokesman-Reviewpublished an architect's presentation drawing of the VIsta House along with this caption: “The Seattle Board of Pubic Works this week approved specification for a vista house which will overlook Seattle City Light’s $85 million Boundary Dam now under construction on the Pend Oreille River. The 30-foot, octagonal, glass-enclosed room, flanked by observation platforms, will be built on a promontory downstream from the dam and command a panoramic view of river, dam and mountains. A large parking area nearby is planned. Architects are Walker & McGough of Spokane.” (See “Vista House Planned,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, 04/23/1965, p. 5.)

The Walker McGough plan for the Vista House had to be reworked between 05/1965 and 07/1965, due to a paucity of construction bids during a first contractor's call. Only one, overly expensive bid was received and denied. On the second try, Spokane-based S.G. Morin and Son, building contractors, won the job. The Spokane Spokesman-Review published a brief note on 07/10/1965: “Seattle City Light Thursday said a contract was awarded to S.G. Morin & Son, Spokane, for construction of the Vista House at the Boundary Dam project. Morin’s bid was $59,348. At a previous bid opening May 12, a lone offer of $88,387 was rejected. Specification were altered before the project was re-advertised for bids. Completion is to be by mid-November.” (See “Morin to Build Dam Site Unit,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, 07/10/1965, p. 6.)

Building Notes

According to Seattle City Light's facts page, the Boundary Dam, a thin-arch type of dam, had a height of 340 above bedrock, a length of 740 feet and a thickness of 32 feet at its base to 8 feet at its top. Boundary is a 740 feet long, rising 340 feet from its bedrock. The dam cost $94 million to erect in 1967. (See "Boundary Project Dam Facts," accessed 04/09/2012.)

Tel: 509.446.3083 (2015).

PCAD id: 17748