Ceiling Collapses at Historic Fort Snelling, Historic Site Open During Repairs

For immediate release

Release dated: 
July 19, 2007

Ceiling Collapses at Historic Fort Snelling, Historic Site Open During Repairs

A ceiling that collapsed in a room within Historic Fort Snelling on Tuesday, July 17, is being investigated and repaired, with minimal impact on the programming at the historic site. It is believed the collapse occurred during the mid-morning hours, though the room was unoccupied at the time. No one was hurt. Damage estimates are not yet available.

The 16' x 38' room is located within the historic fort’s Officers’ Quarters. This building, the Long Barracks and the Hospital, all of which have similar ceiling construction, were originally restored from 1976-78. All three of these buildings are temporarily closed for assessment and repair.

Craig Milkert, a structural engineer retained by the Minnesota Historical Society to investigate the collapse, has completed an initial assessment and identified no structural flaws or damage to the Officers’ Quarters. According to Milkert, “The connection of plaster lath to the wood trusses in the ceiling is clearly what failed. We’re investigating the cause of the failure.” The causes under investigation are vibration from recent construction activities and weather factors, among others. It appears at this time that the ceiling construction during the building’s restoration in the 1970s followed industry standards. There was no prior indication of a problem with the ceiling.

The visitor experience at Historic Fort Snelling will be minimally affected by the building closures, since activities and programs ordinarily conducted in these buildings have been relocated to other parts of the fort. Visitors can explore the newly restored Round Tower and Half Moon Battery, Schoolhouse, Sutler’s Store, Commandant’s House, the quarters occupied by Dred Scott between 1836-39 and other historic structures. Popular program activities, such as daily cannon firings, continue to be offered.

Historic Fort Snelling has recently undergone extensive restoration and repairs, including new roofs and porches on several buildings. Society director Nina Archabal said “Over the past two years, the state has invested $1.75 million to restore Historic Fort Snelling and sustain its viability as an educational and cultural resource. The fort is Minnesota’s best-known historic site, and we are grateful for the state’s ongoing commitment to its preservation so that we may all know and experience the important history that touches the lives of so many people living in the state today.”

During its next session, the state legislature will consider additional funding for the restoration of Historic Fort Snelling. If granted, part of the money would be used to create improved educational facilities within the historic fort. In addition, the historic fort is undergoing a comprehensive review of its educational program with a specific goal of including a more comprehensive picture of the past, including the stories of American Indian and African American peoples at the fort.

About Historic Fort Snelling and the Minnesota Historical Society

A National Historic Landmark, Historic Fort Snelling is located near the airport at the intersection of Hwys. 5 and 55. Overlooking the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, the site is staffed with living-history interpreters who portray the soldiers, cooks, laundresses, storekeepers and craftspersons who inhabited the fort in the late 1820s. The stone and wood-frame buildings have been restored to their original appearance.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849 to preserve and share Minnesota history. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing.