Historic Fort Snelling

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Introduction

Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark, resides on Dakota homeland at the sacred confluence of rivers known as Bdote. The restored 1820s fort and visitor center present the stories of those who crossed paths here over the centuries—from the Dakota, Ojibwe, and enslaved people, to fur traders, immigrants, and soldiers. The site is located at state Highways 5 and 55 overlooking the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

Brief History

The confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers is a place of major social, cultural and historical significance to all people who have inhabited the region. With over 10,000 years of human history, this is a place where complex stories of many peoples converge. Explore the website to learn more about Native Americans, the fur trade, military history, enslaved African Americans and the fight for freedom, the US-Dakota War of 1862 and archaeology at Fort Snelling.​

News Releases

May 17, 2022 Reintroducing Historic Fort Snelling
July 23, 2021 MNHS Archaeology Uncovers New Stories at Historic Fort Snelling
May 7, 2021 Historic Fort Snelling Offers Discounted Admission in 2021
September 9, 2019 MEDIA ALERT: Public Meetings Scheduled Statewide to Gather Input on the Name for Historic Fort Snelling
August 21, 2019 In Support of Expanded Stories, MNHS to Gather Public Input on the Name for Historic Fort Snelling
August 8, 2019 MEDIA ALERT: Dr. Daniel Immerwahr, Author of “How to Hide an Empire," Offers Free Talk at Historic Fort Snelling's Making of Modern America Day Aug. 17
June 10, 2019 MEDIA ALERT: Discover Stories of Minnesota’s Secret WWII Language School in a New Panel Exhibit
May 2, 2019 MNHS Expands Its Work with Veterans at Historic Fort Snelling, Including Free Admission Offer
February 5, 2019 Construction to Start Fall 2019 on Historic Fort Snelling Revitalization
August 9, 2018 Historic Fort Snelling Commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the End of World War I
July 19, 2018 Nationally Known Historian to Stay Overnight Where Dred and Harriet Scott Were Once Enslaved
June 20, 2018 Explore New Stories at Historic Fort Snelling at Two Media Events This Summer
April 17, 2018 Experience Many Different Eras in a Single Visit to Historic Fort Snelling This Summer
April 17, 2018 Historic Fort Snelling Daily Experience
April 17, 2018 Historic Fort Snelling Summer 2018 Exhibits
April 17, 2018 Historic Fort Snelling Special Saturday Events
April 17, 2018 Historic Fort Snelling Annual Summer Events
March 20, 2018 Two Minnesota Cities to Host "Courage and Compassion: Our Shared Story of the Japanese American WWII Experience"
January 16, 2018 Gov. Dayton’s Capital Budget Proposal Includes Funding for Historic Fort Snelling Revitalization
January 12, 2018 Fort Snelling Revitalization Public Meeting
May 4, 2017 ‘Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces’
April 28, 2017 Exhibit Juxtaposes Japanese Americans Incarcerated During WWII Alongside Photos of Them Today
March 29, 2017 Design Work, Program Development Get Underway to Revitalize Historic Fort Snelling
March 29, 2017 200-Year-Old Fort Snelling Book Provides New Insights into Early Minnesota History
November 30, 2016 MEDIA ALERT: Historic Fort Snelling Commemorates the Legacy of Dred and Harriet Scott
July 29, 2015 Historic Fort Snelling Remembers 150th Anniversary of Civil War’s End
July 2, 2015 New Traveling Exhibit on Lincoln Opens July 8 at Historic Fort Snelling
September 3, 2014 Solve Mysteries and Relive Ghost Stories at Historic Fort Snelling, James J. Hill House and North West Company Fur Post this Halloween
August 6, 2014 Explore History's Winding Roads on September Bus Tours at Historic Fort Snelling
July 2, 2014 Travel Back in Time Through Two American Wars this August at Historic Fort Snelling
June 11, 2014 Summer Workshops at Fort Snelling Teach Participants How to Care for Historic Houses
June 11, 2014 St. Paul Civil War Bus Tour and Independence Day Celebrations in July at Historic Fort Snelling
May 9, 2014 PHOTO OPP: Finishing Touches Put on Historic Clock Monday
April 9, 2014 Historic Fort Snelling Opens for the Season with New Exhibit and Memorial Day Programs
March 5, 2014 The Civil War in 1864 and WWII Battle for Rabaul Topics of Lectures at Historic Fort Snelling in April
February 12, 2014 World War II Roundtables at Historic Fort Snelling Discuss Operation Cobra and the War in China
January 15, 2014 World War II Officers Topic of Roundtable at Historic Fort Snelling Feb. 13
December 11, 2013 Meet Veterans of the Eastern Front at Historic Fort Snelling's WWII History Roundtable Jan. 9
August 7, 2013 Discover Historic Fort Snelling in September through Tours, Scout Camps and World War I Programs
May 1, 2013 Celebrate the Return of Summer With WWII Events and Summer Camps at Historic Fort Snelling in June
January 16, 2013 Popular Summer Camps Now Open for Registration
July 19, 2007 Ceiling Collapses at Historic Fort Snelling, Historic Site Open During Repairs
July 19, 2007 FAQs Historic Fort Snelling Officers' Quarters Ceiling Collapse
Historic Fort Snelling All Are Welcome: Revitalized Grounds Fact Sheet
Historic Fort Snelling Images
Historic Fort Snelling Images - NEW
Historic Fort Snelling Logos
Spokespeople
Historic Fort Snelling Plank Museum & Visitor Center Fact Sheet
Plank Museum & Visitor Center Fact Sheet

Historic Fort Snelling Plank Museum & Visitor Center Fact Sheet

Media contacts: 

Suzanne Herrick, 612-247-3079, suzanne.herrick@mnhs.org or Brian Juntti, brian.juntti@mnhs.org, 651-259-3438

Historic Fort Snelling Plank Museum & Visitor Center Fact Sheet

Former U.S. Army Cavalry barracks that had been converted into a VA outpatient clinic get new life in the year 2022. Welcome all to the new Plank Museum & Visitor Center at Historic Fort Snelling. Every detail and every square foot was researched and considered in the rehabilitation, in order to create a space designed for everyone and as the center for the historic site. Highlights of the new facility include:

  • More than 19,000 square feet of public accessible space including substantial exhibit and programming spaces throughout;
  • Lobby spaces on the main floor including the Sit Family Lobby, K.A.H.R Foundation Lobby and the Securian Financial Lobby on the second floor;
  • Two, private second-floor spaces that are available for rent along with a catering kitchen;
  • Large event spaces, meeting rooms and the Odegard classroom;
  • Expanded museum store with recommended learning resources, grab-and-go food and beverages for purchase, Native American art, and Historic Fort Snelling branded merchandise;
  • Improved accessibility with elevators, Americans with Disabilities Act compliant;
  • Restrooms on the main and second floors;
  • Huss Gallery and spaces for traveling exhibits; and,
  • Staff offices and storage in a waterproofed basement.

Revitalization
The interior of the building is a stunning transformation from when the rehabilitation began. Originally built in 1904 as U.S. Army Cavalry barracks and later converted to an outpatient VA Clinic in 1946, the building had served many purposes and many people. It sat vacant since 1989. It had no power, water nor HVAC. There was water damage throughout the building, from roof leaks before MNHS reroofed the building in 2012. Wood floors were warped and ceilings had fallen. Floor surfaces were covered in asbestos mastic and there was lead paint on many walls. 

Now the building is safe, fresh and ready for visitors. It harkens back to its historic functions Notable design features of the revitalization include:

  • Rehabilitating character defining features such as wood windows, wood floors, plaster walls and ceilings, cast iron columns, slate roof and masonry – preserving each element was a labor of love and testament to tradespeople and their craft;
  • Remediating wood floors to remove layers of asbestos mastic, with some areas replaced that were too badly damaged, and lead paint removal;
  • Restoring wood floors and adding new wood floors with a darker stain, to indicate where walls had been in a previous footprint;
  • Painting with colors and using materials selected with historic precedent; and,
  • The use of wood and architectural details along with black metal accents that complement the beautifully rehabilitated floors.

Brief Timeline
It has been called Building K-12, Building 18A-B and a VA outpatient clinic. Following is a brief timeline of the building:

  • Between 1904 and 1907, cavalry stables, stable guardhouses, a drill hall and barracks were constructed at Fort Snelling. Each wing of the barracks was designed to hold 85 soldiers. The Fort Snelling Quartermaster records note that the building was constructed for $60,477.00 with brick walls, stone foundation, slate roof and wood floors.
  • In the 1930s, Building 18 housed machine gun companies of the Third Infantry. These machine gun companies may have occupied the building as early as the 1920s.
  • In the early 1940s, the building housed “companies in training.”
  • In 1944, Japanese language classes began at the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). According to supplements to telephone directories c. 1944 and 1945, the MISLS School Battalion Company F is located in Building 18-B and the School Battalion Company E is located in Building 18-A.
  • In 1946, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs begins converting the building into an outpatient clinic.
  • The building was abandoned in 1989.
  • MNHS reroofed the structure with slate, the same materials as the original. Reroofing was completed in 2012.
  • In July of 2018, Preservation Design Works, LLC presented a Historic Structures Report for Buildings 17 and 18.
  • Fall of 2019, revitalization of Historic Fort Snelling begins.
  • May 28, 2022, the building reopens to the public as the Plank Museum & Visitor Center.

About Historic Fort Snelling
Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark, resides on Dakota homeland known as Bdote, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The restored 1820s fort and new visitor center present the stories of those who crossed paths here—from the Dakota, Ojibwe, and enslaved people, to fur traders, immigrants, soldiers and veterans.

# # #

Resources cited: Historic Structure Report: Cavalry Barracks - Buildings 17, 18 and Link, Preservation Design Works, LLC, July 2018.

Revitalized Grounds Fact Sheet

Historic Fort Snelling All Are Welcome: Revitalized Grounds Fact Sheet

Media contacts: 

Suzanne Herrick, 612-247-3079, suzanne.herrick@mnhs.org or Brian Juntti, brian.juntti@mnhs.org, 651-259-3438

Historic Fort Snelling All Are Welcome: Revitalized Grounds Fact Sheet

Above the soil, below the soil and the soil itself reveals the history of Historic Fort Snelling. With revitalized grounds and improved interpretation, even the plants present an opportunity for learning and connecting to the site of Dakota homeland. Highlights of the revitalized grounds include:

Native Plant Nations
Savanna, woodland, prairie and wet meadow landscapes featuring native plants surround the new visitor center, parking area and pathway to the fort. Interpretive panels throughout the locations present the Dakota and common English names for many plants, plus how Native Americans have used those plants for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. As these landscapes continue to grow and mature, visitors are encouraged to revisit and observe this living history. 

Interpretive Spaces
New Collective Voices interpretive panels feature six individual historical portraits with stories of service, sacrifice, hope, identity, pride and perseverance. Look for history topics that include World War I and World War II soldiers, Native American veterans, Japanese Americans and the Military Intelligence Service Language School as well as the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad. 

Upon entry to the site just past the Hale Welcome Plaza, a panel presents the 1805 Treaty and how it laid the groundwork for an uncertain future between settlers and the Dakota people. A timeline shares historic moments on the site from 1820 to the present. 

Past the parking area, a panel presents the story of Whiskey, a horse who bedazzled soldiers with his intelligence. The U.S. Army buried the horse on the site in 1944 with full military honors. Visitors will see a unique birdhouse and its story, built by Eagle Scout Johnny Her in 2012.

As visitors walk down to the historic fort from the visitor center, interpretive panels describe Fort Snelling’s role in the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.

Gathering Places
Historic Fort Snelling has been a gathering point for 10,000 years. The site continues to welcome people to linger, reflect, celebrate and contemplate. New overlooks along the Wakpa Tanjka/Mississippi River offer opportunities to view natural and built surroundings.  

  • Robert and Alexandra Klas Overlook: Built adjacent to the previous visitor center’s location, this overlook provides sweeping views of the Mississippi River and Minneapolis Skyline. Interpretive panels provide information about prairie plantings surrounding the area, as well as a chronological overview of the site’s history. 
  • Gale Family Foundation Terraces: Relax at the Klas Overlook and enjoy the restored prairie, scenic view, and special musical events that transform the terraces into the best seat in the house. 
  • Picnic Area: Located west of the Klas Overlook, this picnic area is a perfect place to enjoy a bite. The grave of Whiskey, Fort Snelling’s most famous horse is nearby along with Johnny Her’s birdhouse. 
  • A Place to Remember: All are welcome at this spot: to pay tribute to the many lives shaped by this place and the generations who lived, labored, and learned here; to recognize the pain, loss, and sacrifice of those connected to this place; and to honor Minnesota’s shared history, together.
  • Barbara and Michel Nelson Family River Overlook: Nestled behind Building 17 which was constructed in 1904, this overlook presents a unique view of the Mississippi River and bustling Highway 5.
  • Fort Snelling: The fort continues its tradition of cannon and musket demos, blacksmithing, and the Fife and Drum Corp. Visitors are invited to investigate the Commandant's House and South Battery. Climb the Round Tower or Half Moon Battery. See where Harriet and Dred Scott lived, and learn about the history of the many enslaved people at Fort Snelling. View exhibits on medicine and medical care and archaeology. 

Walking Paths
Unpaved and paved paths with improved directional signage provide greater access and better wayfinding to newly revitalized and existing portions of the site. Visitors can meander along the Ecolab River Walk and stroll along the bluff with panoramic views of the river.

As visitors enter the site from the parking lot, the Jim and Sharon Hale Welcome Plaza presents an artistic representation of the confluence between the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers etched in the concrete.

About Historic Fort Snelling
Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark, resides on Dakota homeland known as Bdote, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The restored 1820s military fort and new visitor center present the stories of those who crossed paths here—from the Dakota, Ojibwe, and enslaved people, to fur traders, immigrants, soldiers and veterans.

Spokespeople

Spokespeople

Spokespeople

Amber Annis

Amber Annis, Director of Native American Initiatives

Amber Annis has a long history as not only a public historian, but also as an educator, tribal nation liaison, collaborator and community engagement specialist. Annis works with several departments and sites across MNHS to ensure that Native representation and content are developed in an accurate and appropriate manner. Beyond her work at MNHS, Annis has spent the past several years as an instructor at Metropolitan State University and the University of Minnesota teaching themes such as cultural awareness, contemporary Native identity, environmental justice and United States politics. She spent several years working with the Honoring Nations program, which seeks to highlight examples of Native success across Indian Country. She is also a Native Governance Center Native Nation Rebuilder where she has been trained in Indigenous leadership strategies. She is a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and works daily to ensure that resilient and positive representation of American Indian people are shown through the lens of sovereignty, culture and contemporary issues.

 

Ben Leonard

Ben Leonard, Senior Director, Historic Sites & Facilities Operations

Ben Leonard joined the Minnesota Historical Society in 2013. He has more than 20 years of experience in historical institutions. In his work with historic sites, Leonard is passionate about developing relevant and inclusive opportunities for the public to engage with our history, while creating sustainable operational models for the future. 

 

Kent Whitworth

Kent Whitworth, Director and CEO

Kent Whitworth joined the Minnesota Historical Society as the director and chief executive officer in July 2018. He previously served as the executive director of the Kentucky Historical Society and is a founder and leader of the national History Relevance campaign, which helped to redefine history’s impact on America today

Images - NEW

Historic Fort Snelling Images - NEW

Historic Fort Snelling Images - NEW

1896/1904 McClellan Army Saddle and 1902 Cavalry uniform display.

Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

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Plank Museum and Visitor Center Entrance and K.A.H.R. Foundation Lobby.

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Plank Museum and Visitor Center front entrance.

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Former 1904-05 Cavalry Barracks (Building 17).

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A Place to Remember.

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Buffalo Weavers perform on the KLAS Overlook.

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1805 Treaty Interpretive.

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Interpretive Signage about the WWII Military Intelligence Service Language School.

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Interpretive Signage about military service members during WWII.

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Historic Fort Snelling Round Tower.

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Historic Fort Snelling.

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Visitors walking along the Ecolab River Walk.

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Staff member talking to visitors about the WWII Military Intelligence Service Language School.

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Images

Historic Fort Snelling Images

Historic Fort Snelling Images

Historic Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling

Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

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Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote

Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote

Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

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Historic Fort Snelling entrance

Photo by Charlie Vaughn, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

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Historic Fort Snelling World War II Weekend

Photo by Brady Willette, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Dred and Harriet Scott space 

Photo by Brady Willette courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

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Games on the parade ground

Photo by Caroline Yang courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

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"Fort Snelling from Two Miles Below" by Seth Eastman, 1846-1848

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Map of the Fort Snelling area drawn by Indian agent Lawrence Taliaferro, 1835

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Dred Scott from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 27, 1857

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Harriet Scott from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 27, 1857

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The military concentration camp for Dakota people below Fort Snelling, 1862

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African American troops, Company I, 25th Infantry at Fort Snelling, 1883

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Military Intelligence Service Language School students at Fort Snelling, 1945

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Logos

Historic Fort Snelling Logos

Historic Fort Snelling Logos

Horizontal Color Logo

Horizontal Color Logo

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Horizontal Black Logo

Horizontal Black Logo

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B-Roll Video

Shot List
0-0:27 - Aerial shots of the historic site
0:28-1:30 - School field trip (indoor and outdoor shots)
1:31-1:49 - Examples of historic content explored at site (Native American history, Military Intelligence Language School, military history, Dred Scott's story)
1:49-2:02 - Problems of old visitor center and shots of 1904 cavalry barracks pre-restoration into a new visitor center
2:03-end - Renderings of the site, including new visitor center, after revitalization project is completed

Download Historic Fort Snelling B-Roll (402MB)

B-Roll for Revitalized Landscape