The one-story structure was a popular place 75 years ago. It was where soldiers based at Vancouver Barracks got paid.

The former U.S. Army finance office now is part of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and is being readied for a new role. After a rehabilitation project, it will become office space for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The agency’s regional center is in Portland, but two field offices will relocate to Fort Vancouver. Their intended home, known as Building 728, is near the middle of the campus. It’s just west of the curving road that goes from the Visitor Center on East Evergreen Boulevard to the parking lot of Fort Vancouver’s reconstructed stockade.

Construction will start later this month; it is expected to take about 10 months, said Tracy Fortmann, superintendent at Fort Vancouver.

Officials will work to minimize impact, and “there won’t be major road closures,” Fortmann said.

The structure was built in 1941, said Doug Wilson, National Park Service archaeologist at Fort Vancouver.

“It is one of the latest buildings in the Barracks that still survives,” Wilson said. “It was part of the ramp-up of our entry into World War II.

“There were so many more soldiers here, they needed an office to handle the payroll. They handed out cash, and there is a big vault in there.”

The building’s role has changed a few times since then.

“People were working in it in the early 2000s,” Wilson said.

This is the second Park Service rehab project at Fort Vancouver to house another federal agency. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest moved its headquarters into a two-story landmark, Building 987, almost a year ago.

The former finance building is about 5,800 square feet. It will house 20 to 25 BIA employees. The lease is for 20 years.

Rehabilitation will preserve the building and its historic features while updating and upgrading the structure and its plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems. Workers also will catch up on all the building’s deferred maintenance.

“There could be internal construction within 60 days,” Mary Hazell, acting project manager, said. “A lot of work will wait for spring.”

The $1.7 million contract was awarded to an Oregon company, DSL Builders. The project is funded through the Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as an Interior Department grant.

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