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Preserving Fort Snelling’s historic military buildings has taken creative efforts

Inmates from correctional facilities have been employed to work on the buildings and learn carpentry and masonry skills.

The Administrative Headquarters building, also called the Clocktower Building.
MinnPost photo by Steve Date

Second of two parts.

For years the historic military buildings on Fort Snelling’s Upper Post have stood unused and declining.

It’s been Larry Peterson’s job to creatively use a variety of resources to stabilize the old buildings and get them as structurally sound as possibly until future tenants could be found.

Peterson, the Department of Natural Resource’s manager of Fort Snelling State Park, says an important contributor to this effort has been the Hennepin County Sentencing to Serve Home Program. As part of this program, inmates from correctional facilities have been employed to work on the buildings and learn carpentry and masonry skills — rebuilding roofs, repairing exterior walls and painting.

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The “emergency stabilization” efforts have bought time for many of the buildings, and now that work is paying off.

Upper Mississippi Academy charter school has recently been approved to gradually begin using several of the restored buildings. (I will be working as a sixth-grade teacher at this new school.)

The school’s proposal is one of several applications submitted by various groups this year that have approved. The school is the second organization to put Upper Post buildings into reuse. The Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts transformed a former cavalry drill hall into Base Camp, a space for rock-climbing, classrooms, offices, a kitchen and an assembly space for 500 people.

This is the second installment of a two-part series about the preservation and reuse of the Upper Post’s historic military buildings.  

In today’s video, Peterson and the National Park Service’s John Anfinson explain how the park service, the Department of Natural Resources, Hennepin County, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are working together to find ways to preserve and reuse the buildings.

Peterson says a surge in interest in the buildings stems from tax credits now available to fund repurposing of historic buildings. Applicant groups don’t have to be nonprofits, but they do need to establish a link to the DNR’s mission of connecting people to the outdoors, promoting sustainable energy and educating people about cultural resources.