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Historic Fort Douglas at the University of Utah
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Periods of Change
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Buildings remaining from the Establishment period, 1862-1869.Establishment 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 in red.)

Buildings remaining from the Permanence period, 1870-1889.Permanence 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.
Buildings remaining from the Professionalism period, 1890-1921.Professionalism 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.
Buildings remaining from the Prosperity period, 1922-1940.Prosperity 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.
Buildings remaining from the Mobilization period, 1941-1945.Mobilization 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.

 As part 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. 

 Although 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 see

Buildings remaining from the Contraction period, 1946-1991.Contraction 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. 

 In 1975, 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.

he University Student Housing / 2002 Olympic Village period.University 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 student housing and 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 been.

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.

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