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1862-1869 The first structures at
Camp Douglas were modest in both design and construction. The buildings
were constructed using materials and methods that reflected a sense of
impermanence. This was a result of the belief, during the 1860s,
that the Army’s presence in the Salt Lake Valley was temporary. The
most common materials used were adobe and hand-hewn logs. The only
building that remains from this time period is Building 655, which was
the Commanding Officer’s Quarters. (Shown
1870-1889 The oldest surviving barracks,
Building 618, was built in 1870. Between 1872 and 1876, most of the
post was rebuilt due to the generally dilapidated condition of the hastily
constructed 1863 structures. Nearly all of the log and adobe buildings
were replaced by ones constructed of local sandstone from Red Butte Canyon.
The local quartermaster chose to use the contemporary Gothic Revival Style
rather than the Classical Style suggested by the plans sent from Washington.
In the 1880s the Army began to concentrate its forces at the larger posts.
Fort Douglas was one of these, and another building campaign took place
between 1884 and 1886 that produced housing and support buildings to accommodate
the additional personnel. The housing was once again done in the
Gothic Revival Style, but this time built of wood.
1890-1921 During this time the Army
went through another reorganization that, among other things, included
better living conditions in an effort to attract better qualified men who
would re-enlist and produce soldiers of higher caliber. This restructuring
included the creation of separate residences for noncommissioned officers
and their families. It also included impressive new barracks of institutional
character and size for the lower ranking soldiers and better living conditions.
The sewage system was connected to the Salt Lake City system in 1897, solving
the most serious health problem at the post. Although many buildings
had running water in the 1880s, indoor plumbing was not installed until
1903, electric lights in 1910, and steam heating and telephones in 1911.
This reorganization and the 1901 designation of Fort Douglas as a regimental
headquarters resulted in the construction of many new buildings in order
to accommodate the post’s population growth. Quarters for noncommissioned
officers were built along Connor Road, quarters for bachelor officers were
built on the corner of Lewis Street and Fort Douglas Boulevard, and barracks
for enlisted men were placed along the picturesque loop Soldiers Circle.
In addition to housing, various other buildings were constructed.
These included a Post Exchange, a bowling alley, a new guardhouse, a new
post bakery, and a number of warehouses.
1922-1940 With the arrival of the
celebrated 38th "Rock of the Marne" Infantry Regiment in June of 1922,
Fort Douglas entered a period of prosperity often called the post’s "Golden
Age." As part of another nationwide Army building program initiated
in 1927 to upgrade living conditions, many buildings were remodeled, new
officers’ quarters were constructed around the west corner of the parade
ground, additional quarters for regimental noncommissioned officers were
built along Connor Road, and the largest barracks on Solders Circle was
constructed. Several recreational facilities such as baseball fields,
a golf course, a post theater, a swimming pool and a bathhouse, and landscaping
features such as the sandstone retaining walls were also built during this
time period. It has been estimated that, during the Great Depression,
Fort Douglas provided Utah’s economy with more than one million dollars
each year, a portion of which came from New Deal assistance programs such
as the WPA and the CCC.
1941-1945 Another period of intense
activity at Fort Douglas came shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In response to the anticipated Japanese coastal invasion, the Ninth Service
Command Center was moved inland to Fort Douglas from the Presidio in San
Francisco. During the war, the post played a pivotal role in the
war effort. In addition to serving as the headquarters for the Ninth
Service Command, it housed a Prisoner of War camp and served as the Induction,
Reception, and Separation Center for the Rocky mountain Region. It
was here that new recruits were sworn in, clothed, and received their assignments.
Later, when they returned, it was here that the soldiers received their
discharge before returning home. Not only did Fort Douglas play an
important part in the war effort, it also had an impact on the community.
During 1943, its peak employment year, the post employed approximately
1,000 military personnel and 2,000 civilians. Therefore, a large
number of buildings were needed in a hurry to house the new activities.
of the national mobilization effort, numerous wooden buildings were quickly
constructed specifically for wartime needs. There was little variation
between these standardized structures and, whether they were barracks or
warehouses, these buildings all had the same general appearance.
They were wood frames with simple gable roofs and without stylistic embellishments,
covered with drop novelty siding, and placed on a concrete-slab foundation.
Being either one or two stories tall, the basic form was a long rectangular
box. Although the majority of the functions only required a simple
rectangle, for those functions requiring a larger structure, a "U" or "E"
shaped building was easily formed by simply combining smaller buildings.
The design of these buildings was guided by five principles: speed of construction,
simplicity, flexibility, conservation of materials, and safety—the most
important being speed. The most quickly constructed building during
World War I was completed in three hours; the average during World War
II was one building per hour.
the wooden buildings are often referred to as "temporary" structures, these
buildings were not "temporary" in the sense of being shoddily built.
The main reason that these buildings were labeled "temporary" was due to
the general opinion that wars end, and these buildings were intended for
wartime use. These buildings were built with the expectation that
they would last only 5 to 20 years. However, they were over designed
in spite of that expectation because President Roosevelt promised the mothers
of servicemen that the troops would get the basic comforts that were considered
to be standard among average American citizens by 1940. This is why
the buildings were painted at the cost of millions of dollars in spite
of the concept that they were only meant to last a few years.
There are still
a number of the "temporary" buildings scattered around the campus.
For additional information on these and other historic buildings on campus
1946-1991 There was a dramatic decrease
in activity at Fort Douglas when World War II came to an end and the Ninth
Service Command Center returned to San Francisco. Due to a variety
of factors, it was determined that Fort Douglas was too small to meet future
needs. As a result, many functions and personnel were moved to other
posts, and several acres of land and numerous buildings were either granted
or sold to local and federal agencies. In 1945, 49 acres at the mouth
of Emigration Canyon was granted to the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks
Association. In 1946, several acres of land at the north boundary
of the post were deeded for the building of the Shriner’s Hospital.
In 1947, the motor pool area located just west of the Annex Building, was
granted to the National Guard. Several acres were transferred to
the Veterans Administration for the construction of the Veterans Hospital
on Foothill Boulevard in 1948. This same year, the University of
Utah acquired nearly 300 acres of the fort, and the Salt Lake City obtained
the portion that is located between the university and the hospital along
with some land just east of Rice Stadium. The unused buildings, which
the Army retained, were leased to various military organizations such as
the Deseret Testing Center, ROTC Headquarters, the Utah Military District,
and the Utah National Guard.
the post was placed on closure status. However, the Army decided,
in 1981, that it would not be cost effective to deactivate Fort Douglas
due to the cost of renting space for offices. Nevertheless, this
did not last because the cost of maintaining the historic buildings became
a financial burden. In 1988, Fort Douglas was once again placed on
closure status. In 1990, the University of Utah received the remainder
of the fort, excluding the Fort Douglas Cemetery, in exchange for state
lands with the stipulation that the university could only take possession
of the areas determined to be surplus. In 1991, approximately 51
acres, which included some of the fort’s most historic buildings, were
declared surplus and transferred to the University of Utah.
Student Housing and the 2002 Olympic Village
Through a University President appointed task force, it was determined
that the best “re-use” of Fort Douglas would be to reintroduce its long-standing
function as a residential village, and that the best location for the University’s
the new guesthouse
would be within the area of Fort Douglas. The philosophy guiding
site planning was to weave new construction into the historic fabric of
Fort Douglas thus expanding on the Fort’s existing “neighborhoods” of residences
surrounding community buildings and open spaces.
Extensive studies of the Fort Douglas
site were conducted during programming and master site planning to develop
design guidelines for the new buildings so they would not compete with
the historic buildings. The University of Utah’s intent and dedication
was to have the new construction be another element of Fort Douglas, being
part of a whole that will continue to function as the village it has always
During this planning process, Salt
Lake City was selected as the host city for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
As a result, a new layer was added to the consideration of new student
housing and the long-range plan for the University of Utah. A secondary
use of Fort Douglas and the new student housing was to serve for a short
time as the Athlete’s Village for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Approximately four thousand athletes, trainers, and officials were housed
from January 9 to March 4. The Sage Point neighborhood continued
to serve as the Paralympic Village from March 4 to March 26.
There have been many questions about
the future of the existing historic buildings at Fort Douglas. The
University is upgrading and restoring all the historic buildings as funds
become available. For example, all of the 1950s wrought iron is being
replaced with historically appropriate wood elements. Many buildings,
such as the Officers Circle duplexes, have already received this treatment.
In addition to housing, the historic buildings will be used for student
support spaces that enhance the academic experience of all university students
with emphasis being placed on the programs and needs associated with the
students housed at Fort Douglas.
The University of Utah is pleased
to have the assistance and support of the State Division of History and
their Office of Historic Preservation, the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, the Utah Heritage Foundation, and other university and community
groups as it works to maintain and restore the historic qualities and unique
environment of Fort Douglas.