The Minnesota Historical Society is asking the state legislature to support a $30 million capital budget request to fund a much-needed revitalization and renovation of Historic Fort Snelling in time for its bicentennial in 2020. Governor Dayton has included this request in this year’s capital budget recommendations and has done so since 2015. MNHS is grateful for his support.
The $30 million request continues the investment Minnesota has already made in this historic icon. The legislature awarded $4 million for design in 2017 and $500,000 for predesign in 2015. The funding to date, along with $12 million in private funds raised by MNHS, has kept the revitalization project on schedule. However, completing the project is contingent on receiving the remaining state support in this year’s bonding bill.
Schematic design concepts developed this winter show the possibilities for the revitalization. Beginning with the removal of the current failing visitor center, new visitor reception center and orientation spaces will be created within a 1905 cavalry barracks and an 1880 ordnance building and will include a 4,000-square-foot exhibit space and expanded flex spaces that can be used as classrooms or as meeting rooms for community partners. In addition, the grounds will be landscaped to provide opportunities for outside learning and for reflection and commemoration.
“Time is of the essence. The current visitor center has serious, chronic maintenance issues. Our plan is to use vacant historic buildings on site to introduce visitors to the many historical narratives of the fort and the surrounding Bdote area,” says MNHS Director and CEO Stephen Elliott. “With the approaching bicentennial of the fort in 2020, this project provides the opportunity to revitalize Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark, the site of its oldest buildings, and expand the stories told there–stories of major significance in American history that happened here in Minnesota.”
A major component of the project has been the creation of a Dakota Community Council (DCC), made up of Dakota members from Minnesota and surrounding states. Through a formal partnership, the DCC and MNHS are developing programs that share the long history of the Dakota in the area. Historic Fort Snelling lies at Bdote, a sacred place for the Dakota and a site of Native American history that dates back as far as 10,000 years.
In addition, program developers are working to broaden daily and seasonal offerings, so that visitors can explore not only the 1820s U.S. military fort, but will also learn about veterans and their families from the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam and the Gulf War. In addition, daily programs will feature stories of enslaved and free African Americans and Buffalo Soldiers, and Japanese American soldiers who served in military intelligence in World War II.
Find out more about the project at www.mnhs.org/HFS2020 and join the discussion on social media at #HFS2020.
About Historic Fort Snelling
Historic Fort Snelling is located near the MSP airport at the intersection of Hwys. 5 and 55 overlooking the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Originally an 1820s Army outpost to protect U.S. interests in the fur trade, the fort and surrounding buildings were later used for military training from the Civil War through World War II. Human history in the area dates back at least 10,000 years. Historic Fort Snelling is Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark.
About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.
The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.