Fort Snelling’s Upper Bluff
St. Paul, MN

Fort Snelling was first sold off in 1858, long after Minnesota had lost its status as a frontier state, but the Civil War and conflicts between settlers and the Dakota renewed the need for a military post in the Twin Cities. In 1861 the fort was reactivated as a muster and command station, sending northern troops east and west as needed. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the Army redesigned this part of Fort Snelling ‘The Department of the Dakotas’.

The Army expanded the complex in 1879 with a new headquarters and officer’s quarters, followed a decade later by brick infantry barracks. Development continued through 1907 with the addition of stables, more barracks, warehouses, workshops, a hospital, and many support buildings. The post became a place where new officers were trained and where the wounded could heal. Life was so peaceful that it became known as the ‘Country Club of the Army’ following the addition of a golf club and hunting club.

During World War Two, the post processed 600,000 draftees and became the home of a language school that specialized in training Japanese Americans to support military intelligence. After the war, Army maintained some parts of the former Department of the Dakotas buildings, but by 1997 they were abandoned. Having won a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, the Upper Bluff will be preserved until the buildings collapse from disrepair, or until they are repaired for future generations.

One of my favorite night views of Fort Snelling’s so-called Upper Post, taken between snowstorms.
Wintertime is quiet, except for the planes overhead.
This oil house is one of the older buildings around the Upper Bluff.
Officers got houses and the honor of living near other officers. They call it Officer’s Row.
A gymnasium, if I recall. The last building before the road dead-ends.
Vents in the boards over the windows helps prevent mold and animals from getting too crazy inside.
A long exposure in the wind, lit by airport lights.
An original stencil-brushed sign.
Trees like masks.
A siren near the main road. Is it an air raid siren?
A bumper sticker with the usual tagline. Note the detail on the radiator!
Hip bump girl.
A bunk room, minus the bunks.
Call me angsty, but I like it. Found in the Auxiliary Hospital.
A small stage in one of the barracks.
The most patriotic wallpaper I’ve seen.
The basements of the barracks were often stone and brick, and many of them were connected by short tunnels.
Two roads; the left one you can walk down, but you have to answer questions when people ask. The right one–you don’t want to be found on that one.
Who is Jo Jew? Is it you?
Carvings on the back of a barracks building.
Fantastic brick graffiti piece by a Duluthian in 1933! Is the stick drawing of a horse? Feel free to weigh in.

References »

"Fort Snelling State Park "Upper Bluff" Reuse Study". 2008. Fort Snelling State Park Upper Bluff Consultation Team and Thomas R. Zahn & Associates. Report.