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Historic Fort Snelling, located near the airport, sits on a juncture of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Although it sits on Fort Snelling State Park, the historic site is run by the Minnesota Historical Society and has a separate entrance fee. It was built as a frontier outpost in the early 1820s, and eventually evolved into a military training facility from the Civil War through World War II. Families can learn about military history, fur trade, slavery in Minnesota, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and other historical eras. While the fort itself is nearing its 200th birthday, the location has been significant for centuries to many American Indian communities with human history dating back 10,000 years.
Beginning in the summer of 2018, visitors will be able to explore a wide variety of eras and diverse people through 11 interpretive stations. The exhibit will lead visitors through the many stories from the area, including the Dakota people, the military men and women, WWII-era Military Intelligence Service Language School where Japanese-Americans trained as linguists, and the lives of Dred and Harriet Scott.
Historic Fort Snelling Revitalization Project
The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has a goal to renovate and revitalize this landmark before its bicentennial in 2020. The fort is Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark and home to the oldest structure and residence in the State. While funding is currently dependent on legislative decisions, the MNHS is moving forward optimistically. In January 2018, Governor Dayton backed these funding requests in his budget recommendations.
The project aims to remedy continual maintenance issues and preserve the historic buildings while creating a place to share the stories of our State's past. Collaborative projects are being planned with historians, Dakota and Ojibwe people, African Americans, Japanese Americans and veterans groups. These partnerships are intended to approach Minnesota history with diverse stories.
Add a Little Historical Research to Your Visit
An Army Fifth Regiment order book from 1826-1827 was recently donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. This handwritten book details daily life at the fort during some of the first years. At the time, the fort was commanded by its namesake, Col. Josiah Snelling, and soldiers’ duties included protecting U.S. interests in the fur trade and serving as a bulwark against British forces in Canada. MNHS’ already owned manuscripts collections covering earlier years, 1819-1824, in Fort Snelling’s history. Before visiting or after visiting the fort, it could be fun to read excerpts of the order books. They can be found digitally online here.
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