The long-anticipated renovation of Historic Fort Snelling, including the creation of a new visitor center in the old cavalry barracks, will start this fall.
The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), which has secured $34.5 million for the project, announced the plans this week. The funding includes private donations and $19.5 million in state bonding.
Originally, historical society officials had planned on a $46.5 million renovation budget, but they received less bonding money than requested.
“We are very excited about what we can accomplish with the money in hand,” said Kent Whitworth, historical society director and CEO.
The fort at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers is a National Historic Landmark.
The most dramatic change will be the visitor center. The existing center, built in the 1970s, will be torn down. The fort’s 1905 cavalry barracks, currently mothballed, will be transformed into the visitor center with 4,000 square feet of exhibit space.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to model the historic preservation ethic that MNHS has supported, encouraged and stewarded for generations,” Whitworth said.
The fort’s landscaping will also be upgraded to include more interpretive signs and native plants.
“The landscape will be a connective tissue so it doesn’t feel disjointed,” Whitworth said.
MNHS will also roll out an interpretive plan developed with community partners that expands the stories told at the fort.
Exhibits, programs and staff at Fort Snelling still explore the site’s frontier military history, something veterans’ groups don’t want to see diminished. But they also now talk about its diverse history, including the Japanese-American soldiers who trained there during World War II, slaves who lived at the fort, and American Indians who occupied the land centuries before white settlement and were held there as prisoners after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.