Historic Fort Snelling, located near the airport, sits on a juncture of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers and is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society ("MNHS"). 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.
Visitors can explore a wide variety of eras and diverse people through 11 interpretive stations created in 2018. 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
Work will begin on the Fort Snelling Revitalization Project in Fall of 2019. The fort is Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark and home to the oldest structure and residence in the State. While MNHS only received about half the amount they wanted for this project, they have decided to go forward. The project will be broke up the into stand-alone projects made to allow construction to begin on the largest part of the project.
The revised project includes replacing the visitor center with a 4,000-square-foot exhibit inside a rehabilitated 1905 cavalry barracks; making updates to the landscape to provide opportunities for outdoor learning and for a place of remembrance; improving parking, wayfinding and access; and rolling out an interpretive plan developed with community partners that expands stories of the military, Dakota, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, women and more. These partnerships are intended to approach Minnesota history with diverse stories.
The site will remain open during construction with work expected to be completed in 2021.
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.