Removal of buildings 25, 27 & 28, 1982
Buildings being demolished, 1982
From the Minnesota Historical Society

Why Save Fort Snelling

One day I was chatting with a coworker and I mentioned the efforts to save Officer's Row at Fort Snelling. Ever a practical person, she commented "well, you can't save everything." Her cold splash of reality gave me a pause to think about what it meant. After a moment I replied "yes, but can't we save something?"

A lot of people ask why it's worth even trying to save Fort Snelling. It's just a collection of old buildings that are falling apart. They're tucked in next to an international airport, constrained by highways, and surrounded by a metropolitan area.

The Upper Post is an opportunity to tell the stories of all the generations that have come before. Treaties were signed and broken. Men trained for the Civil War, Spanish/American War, World War I, and World War II. 600,000 soldiers were processed through Fort Snelling during WWII alone. The Sioux were imprisoned nearby during the U.S.-Dakota Conflict and many lost their lives here. During the 1930s a supply depot was established at the Post to support Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in an effort to pull America out of the Great Depression.

Architecturally, the buildings are stunning examples of construction methods and styles not found today. In the era of glass sky scrapers the brick, limestone, and wooden structures harkens back to a time when a four story building was considered tall. The houses represent excellent examples of Queen Ann style popular in the late 1800s.

Barracks, bldgs 101, 102, & 103

Photo by Mark Gustafson

Look at the layout of the post and you can see the stratification of military life laid out before you. The barracks where the privates lived are relatively close to the road with a yard in front big enough for them men to muster out in formation. The officer's houses, by contrast, are set farther back. They have ornate residences with graceful curving sidewalks, garages, and manicured lawns. The layout was designed to reinforce the social order of military life.

All these items are a teaching moment, an opportunity to show our children the breadth of civilization and how decisions can echo down through the centuries. Fort Snelling is a tangible thread in the fabric of our social history-it's not simply a bronze plaque by the side of the road that begins "On this site used to stand..."

What can you do to help? I'm glad you asked! Visit this next page for suggestions on how you can help preserve our heritage.

What issues surround the site? There are many impediments to saving and developing the upper post. None of them, however, are insurmountable. Visit this next page for a rundown of the problems and what we're doing to solve them.