Aerial view of Taylor Avenue looking NE towards St Paul
Mendota Bridge in the upper right and polo grounds in the upper left
Aerial view of Taylor Avenue looking NE
From the Minnesota Historical Society

Timeline & Historical Background

1804 - 1805
Meriwether Lewis

During the exploration of the Lousiana Territory, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark recommended the establishment of military fortifications at critical Missouri and Mississippi River junctures to maintain peace and protect trade with the American Indians. Among the sites recommended was St. Anthony Falls.

Sept 1805
Zebulon Pike

Lieutenant Zebulon Pike negotiated a treaty with the Dakota tribe, granting the U.S. government 100,000 acres at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters (Minnesota) Rivers.

Aug 1819
Lt. Colonel Leavenworth

The first fort was constructed. The first commander, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth, chose the low ground on the right (south) bank of the mouth of the St. Peters River as the site for a temporary quarters. The location, however, soon proved to be unhealthy.

Map of Camp Coldwater

Fearing spring floods and more disease, Lt. Colonel Leavenworth moved his troops to high ground near a spring a mile up the west bank of the Mississippi River - this became Camp Coldwater. During the summer, Colonel Josiah Snelling became the new commander of the regiment. Under his energetic directrion, a new stone fort was constructed atop the bluff on the west bank of the confluence of the St. Peters and Mississippi Rivers. The new post was given the name Fort St. Anthony the following year.

Colonel Josiah Snelling

Construction of the new post was completed. The following year, in recognition of his considerable achievement, the War Department officially changed the name of the site to Fort Snelling.

1828 - 1829
General Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor commands the fort. Lt. Colonel Taylor later becomes the 12th president of the United States. One of Taylor's daughters elopes with Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, reportedly marrying him in the fort's block house. Jefferson Davis later becomes president of the Confederacy.

1836 - 1837 & 1838 - 1840
Dred Scott

Dred Scott lives at Fort Snelling as a slave of Dr. Emerson. Mr. Scott later sues for his freedom in Scott vs. Sandford, carrying the case to the Supreme Court in 1857. The case helped widen the rift between North and South, leading to the Civil War in 1861.

Map of Minnesota Territory

The Minnesota Territory was formed with Saint Paul as its political center. As the western frontier became ever more remote, Fort Snelling became more of a tourist attraction than a military necessity.

Franklin Steele

Fort Snelling and eight thousand surrounding acres were sold under dubious circumstances to Franklin Steele, a former sutler, for $90,000. Following the sale, the fort was abandoned by the military and was primarily used to pen sheep.

1861 - 1865
Dakota boy in Fort Snelling prison compound

The outbreak of the Civil War and the U.S.-Dakota Conflict prompted the reactivation of the fort. Several hundred Dakota die on Pike Island below the fort when approximately 1600 elderly people, women, and children are incarcerated there in the winter of 1862 1863.


The Army decided to retain the post for use as a headquarters for the Department of the Dakotas.

Headquarters building

At the recommendation of Alfred H. Terry, to provide better accomodations for the officers and men of the Department of the Dakotas, work began on 30 new buildings. Headquarters, officers quarters, and support facilities are constructed.

Postcard of barracks

New brick infantry barracks were built.

1903 - 1907
Quarters, 1978

New barracks, officers quarters, stables, warehouses, artillery sheds, and workshops were constructed. The enlarged post was now at its fullest development.

1917 - 1918
Artillery training, 1917

As a site for the training of officers, over 2,500 junior grade officers graduate from the post. Late in 1918 most of the site was designated as U.S. General Hospital Twenty-nine to treat convalescent wounded.

1918 - 1939
Polo game

The fort became known as the 'Country Club of the Army.' A golf course, officers' club, streetcars to both Minneapolis and St. Paul, military shows, polo games, demonstrations by the trick horse 'Whisky', and the largest game preserve of a U.S. military installation make it a popular post for soldiers.

Adding sewer pipe, 1937

The Work Progress Administration reconstructed portions of the post at a cost of $500,000. Among other things, they built garages, sidewalks, sewer lines, and remodeled porches.

Recruiting poster

The Selective Service Act led to the opening of a Recruiting and Induction Station and a Reception Center. Over 600,000 soldiers were processed here during the Second World War.

Japanese-American translators

A Military Intelligence Service Language School was established at the post. Over 6,000 linguists, mostly Nisei (Japanese-American) graduated.


Fort Snelling was decommissioned following the end of WWII. The site was turned over to the Veteran's Administration.

Restored Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling, including the Upper Bluff, was designated a National Landmark.

West 7th Street highway being built through Fort Snelling, 1962

Fort Snelling State Park was established.

Oct, 1966

Upper Bluff area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oct, 1969

Historic Fort Snelling and the Chapel were deeded to the State of Minnesota.

Mapquest view of Area J

The U.S. Department of the Interior conveyed 141 acres of surplus Federal property known as the Upper Bluff area to the MnDNR exclusively for public park and recreational purposes in perpetuity. The quitclaim deed included restrictions that require the property to be developed and used according to the Program of Utilization submitted by the MnDNR as part of its application to acquire the property. The MnDNR incorporated the Upper Bluff area into Fort Snelling State Park.

Hospital excavation, 1974

The State designates the Mississippi River and its adjacent corridor within the metropolitan area a Critical Area.

May, 1977

An Act for Fort Snelling Officer's Row was signed, authorizing commissioner of administration to lease/sell buildings and adjacent land.

Sept, 1977
Officer's quarters fireplace, 1975

A Request for Proposal was released to obtain a concessionaire for Officer's Row buildings in September.

Golf course at Fort Snelling

The 1971 Utilization Plan was amended to allow for a concession for the golf course and proposed rehabilitation of Officer's Row and Area J. A concession agreement was signed with the Officer's Row Corporation to operate the golf course and Officer's Row.

The Mississippi River Critical Area is permanently designated.


Congress designates the Mississppi River and recreational Area a unit for the national park system.

Aug, 1991

Authority for continued military occupation of Area J was extended for 4 years, then in 1995 for an additional 3 years.

Sept, 1991
Mapquest view of golf course

The Officer's Row Corporation's concession agreement was terminated by the Executive Council. The MnDNR issued a Request for Proposal for a new concessionaire for the golf course and Officer's Row buildings.

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board logo

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board became the concessionaire for the golf course and polo grounds.


The Comprehensive Management Plan for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is approved.

U.S. Army logo

The Department of the Army vacated Area J.

Nov, 1997

The reuse study for the Upper Bluff area formally began with the convening of a consultation team.

Oct, 1998
My copy of the report  
What, you were expecting something exciting?

The Fort Snelling State Park Upper Bluff Reuse Study was completed and printed for distribution.

First Minnesota Artillery on review in front of Bachelor Officer's Quarters, ca 1917

The Fort Snelling polo fields and parade grounds are converted to baseball and soccer fields.

Preservation Alliance of Minnesota

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota lists the post as one of the 10 most endangered places.

Miller Dunwiddie Architects, authors of the update

An update of the Reuse Study is initiated by Hennepin County. It includes an evaluation of the buildings and a new cost analysis.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation lists Fort Snelling Upper Post as one of the 11 most endangered places.

2006 - 2007
That's me on the right, like you can tell at this scale

This site is conceived and created.

Mothballed house.  Photo by Bill Forbes.

Landscape study is completed. Mothballing of the buildings continues in an effort to buy time until development issues are worked out.

2010 tour of post.  Photo by Todd HIntz.

Rear half of prison is rebuilt. Prison and headquarters are tuck pointed.

Hositpal ward, circa 1915.  Card from Todd Hintz.

Hospital roof and floors are being rebuilt using a $1,000,000 appropriation from the state bonding bill.

Published by the Friends of Fort Snelling.

Tour book of Fort Snelling in WWII is published.

They did a heck of a good job!

Boy Scouts complete their rehab of building 201 in October.


Joint powers agreement signed in December.

CommonBond logo

The VA & CommonBond start rehabilitation on five buildings for veteran housing.

CommonBond logo

The VA & CommonBond complete their rehabilitation project in June. Veterans start moving into the completed buildings in May.

VA logo

The VA starts work on warehouse #222, converting it into a remote medicine clinic.

Boy Scouts logo

The Boy Scouts start construction on their new headquarters building next to the drill house.