NPS Visitor Center to be Improved

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Date: March 4, 2014
Contact: Alex Patterson, Facility Manager, 360-816-6221
Contact: Tracy Fortmann, Superintendent, 360-816-6205

VANCOUVER, WA: The National Park Service has authorized funding for a project to rehabilitate the existing 5,650 square-foot Visitor Center completed at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in 1962. A national model when it first opened to the public, in more recent years the historic Mission 66-style building has been in need of major upgrades.
This historic rehabilitation will be confined to the existing footprint of the building and will address essential upgrades to protect the health and safety of visitors, improve efficiency of space while improving the appearance of the structure to make it more readily identifiable by the public as a public facility.

The following are some of the critically important changes that will be made through this project:

  • removal of hazardous materials, including lead-based paint and asbestos containing materials;
  • replacement of antiquated mechanical and electrical distribution systems to save energy and meet current building codes;
  • installation of a fire suppression system to protect the historical structure and improve visitor safety;
  • replacement of the existing lighting with energy-efficient LED fixtures;
  • replacement of  the outdated exhibits with more relevant and accessible ones that address the important history of Fort Vancouver National Historical Site and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve;
  • upgraded restrooms for accessibility compliance and improved security;
  • redesign of interior floor plan to include expanded theater and public orientation spaces to meet increased demand of larger groups visiting the site, such as school groups, group tours, and the general public. 

"The Visitor Center is the central hub of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve," said National Park Service Facility Manager Alex Patterson. "We here at the national park are so pleased to be able to refresh this historic structure. This building will be redesigned to meet the increased visitation demand and better serve the visiting public, while staying within the existing footprint, correcting code violations, and eliminating over a million dollars in deferred maintenance."

The project will be managed by the National Park Service and its Denver Service Center (DSC) office under the guidance of DSC Project Manager Ric Alesch.

"I have worked on numerous high profile NPS construction projects," said Alesch, "and this is an extraordinary one which will make a clear difference to the national park, the historic reserve, and the community. This is a great design-build project that will be open to Service-Disabled Veteran-owned companies for competitive proposals in the next few weeks."

"During these difficult economic times, I am both honored and humbled by this funding support, and I give tremendous credit to National Park Service staff---here locally, as well as in the Denver Service Center and regionally---who have never wavered in their support of this compelling project," said Superintendent Tracy Fortmann. "This rehabilitation will insure that our public spaces—including the theater, exhibit space, and restrooms—are safe, efficient, accessible and adequately sized for the public. We are so fortunate to be able address these much needed improvements. The Visitor Center has great bones, has served the public ably since 1962, and this project will help ensure that it will better serve the many future generations to come!"

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, is the heart of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. The Vancouver National Historic Reserve brings together a national park, a premier archaeological site, the region's first military post, an international fur trade emporium, one of the oldest operating airfields, the first national historic site west of the Mississippi River, and a waterfront trail and environmental center on the banks of the Columbia River. The partners of the Reserve teach visitors about the fur trade, early military life, natural history, and pioneers in aviation, all within the context of Vancouver's role in regional and national development. The Reserve's vast array of public programs -- including living history events, cultural demonstrations, exhibits, active archaeology, and other special events and activities -- create a dynamic, fun, and unique tourist destination for people of all ages.

Photo of north face of Visitor Center
Image of the front (north) side of the Visitor Center at its dedication on 19 March 1962.
Visitors near the entrance to the Visitor Center on its official day of dedication, 18 March 1962.

NPS Photo, from the park collection

View of a band set up to play in front of a crowd at the dedication of the park's Visitor Center, 18 March 1962.
Band members and other people assemble at the dedication of the national historic site and new Visitor Center on 18 March 1962.

NPS Photo, from the park collection

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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