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.

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.

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