Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Neoclassical Revival Officer’s Quarters

Prior to the 1967 expansion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, the area of the Upper Post known as Officer’s Row looked like a typical block of family homes. The houses were generously set back from Taylor Avenue giving each a large front yard. The considerable space between each residence allowed officers and their families privacy and plenty of space to live and play. Just like neighborhoods in the city, various architectural styles were used to add to the homey feel of this part of the fort.

Building 171 was originally constructed to house one officer and his family. After a fire partially destroyed the home in 1913, it was remodeled into a stacked duplex — one officer and his family lived downstairs, and another family lived in the upper unit. Each home was approximately 1,000 square feet, had a fireplace in the living room, and hardwood floors throughout. The 1922 remodel added screened-in porches that extended off the front of the building which gave each unit additional three-season living space. The addition of the porches, with their supporting columns and railings, removed most of the original colonial revival influences and gave it more of a neoclassical style that was unique on the fort at this time.

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Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Quartermaster’s Shops

A building boom took place in this area of the fort when the Department of the Dakota moved its headquarters to Fort Snelling in 1879. Building 63 was originally constructed to house the Quartermaster’s Shops for this new area of the post, but soon became the Post Exchange. Originally lit with oil lamps, electricity was added in the 1910s. In 1926 it was converted into eight sets of apartments for non-commissioned officers and their wives. These one bedroom, one bathroom apartments had hardwood floors throughout and were heated by a fireplace and small wood stove. Each apartment was approximately 700 square feet.

Building 63 is the most recent to be razed. Prior to demolition, an array of obvious structural problems went unheeded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Serious problems, such as gaping holes in the roof and voids in the joints between exterior bricks were documented as early as the 1990s. By 1998, a survey of the building found that, “Brick work on the [outer] walls does not use common bond construction, using instead metal ties between the withes. These have rusted through and the outer withe of brick has collapsed in a section of the east wall.”[1] Recommendations to stabilize and mothball the building fell on deaf ears until it was too late. By the next documented survey of the building in 2006, the center section of Building 63 had entirely collapsed. The following year, even more of the building had toppled, leaving only a small, two-story section at the northern end standing. That section of the building held on proudly until a bulldozer tore it down in 2010.

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Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Hospital Steward’s Quarters

The home for the hospital steward (the hospital’s principal non-commissioned officer) and his family sits in a small grove of trees that gives us a glimpse as to what this part of the Fort may have looked like when people lived here. If your imagination can get you past the boarded up windows and entryways, you can almost see the family sitting on the porch on a warm summer evening drinking lemonade.

The home was simple. The main level featured a living room, dining room, and a kitchen. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and one bath. This building originally had a slate roof, which was later replaced with asphalt shingles. A skylight has also been added. An open wooden porch was replaced with an enclosed red brick structure to match the  exterior of the building. There was also a small, one-story addition to the rear corner of the home since its original construction.

Currently, this building is in fair condition. Like most of the buildings at the Upper Post, it is in need of mortar re-pointing and concrete work. Problems with the roof have caused interior damage all the way to the basement. Paint and plaster have cracked off walls and ceilings in numerous places. The windows have severe water damage. Obviously, most of the exterior wood also needs to be replaced after years of neglect.

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