Boy Scout Base Camp, Building 201, Fort Snelling, Hennepin County

B1_BaseCamp_Before_Exterior_West view

Boy Scout Base Camp Exterior (Before)

Boy Scout Base Camp Exterior (After)

Fort Snelling was built on a dramatic bluff at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers in 1820. After a major expansion starting in 1879 that established the Fort Snelling Upper Post, the fort was threatened with closure by an Army reorganization in the late nineteenth century. Instead, the fort was expanded and the base’s infantry troops were joined by new artillery and cavalry units.

The expansion resulted in a construction campaign that produced barracks, stables, and Building 201—a cavalry drill hall where horses could be trained regardless of the weather.  In addition to military functions, the massive hall hosted a variety of public events including horse shows, boxing matches, riding lessons, indoor polo, and even ice skating.

The Army officially decommissioned Fort Snelling in 1946.  The original citadel eventually became a Minnesota Historical Society museum, but other parts of the fort were lost to freeway expansion or sat vacant, earning the Upper Post a place on the “Most Endangered” lists of both Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Building 201 did have continued use for office and storage space until it was purchased by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2000 when it was vacated and boarded.

The Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America came to the rescue for Building 201, recognizing that the former cavalry drill hall could become a 21st century camp for active young boys to learn needed skills.   A $5 million sustainable, adaptive reuse effort has transformed the space into an innovative base camp with a rock-climbing wall, high ropes course, catering kitchen, classrooms, office space, and gathering space for groups of up to 500 people.  As an example of the creative use of an unusual historic structure—and for its pioneering role launching the revitalization of Fort Snelling’s Upper Post—this project merits a 2011 Minnesota Preservation Award.

Owner: Northern Star Council, Boy Scouts of America Base Camp; Board/Volunteer Support: Coleman Hull and Van Vliet, Target Corporation; Architect: LHB, Inc.; Contractor: J. E. Dunn; Historical Consultant: Landscape Research, LLC; Energy Modeling: The Weidt Group; Climbing Wall and COPE Course: Themescapes; Civil Engineer: Bonestroo; Photographer: Dana Wheelock Photography

B6_BaseCamp_Before_Interior_view from North
Boy Scout Base Camp Interior (Before)
A3_BaseCamp_After_Interior_West view

Boy Scout Base Camp Interior (After)