It’s not too late to save crumbling Fort Snelling

Officials seek to redevelop the historic site’s deteriorating Upper Post.

.ST. PAUL (AP) – On Fort Snelling’s Upper Post, it’s too late for building No. 63.

Just two years ago, the quartermaster’s building was a candidate for renovation. But small holes in the roof grew bigger, and after a heavy snow about half of the roof collapsed. All that’s left of that end of the once-handsome building is a tumble of bricks, splintered timbers, twisted metal and fallen red shingles.

Federal, state and county officials gathered at the Upper Post on Monday, vowing that such a historic loss would not happen again.

The 141-acre area, designated as one of the nation’s top most endangered historic sites, has been a pivotal piece of land throughout Minnesota’s saga.

It has served as a trading post and base from which campaigns against Indians were waged as well as a training ground for troops from the Spanish-American War to World War II.

After years of faltering efforts to save the Upper Post, officials said they are considering seeking congressional approval to clear up the tangled ownership of the site and set up a local commission to coordinate redevelopment of the 27 remaining and deteriorating buildings.

The Upper Post is the fenced-off, weed-strewn part of Fort Snelling that lies on high land west of Highway 55. It was built mostly between 1870 and 1910, and was little used after World War II. Unlike Historic Fort Snelling – which lies to the east, began in 1820 as a trading center and was bought and saved by the Minnesota Historical Society as a living history museum – the Upper Post has seen little preservation.

Upper Post buildings were abandoned 10 to 50 years ago. Most have been scarred by vandals, and broken windows have allowed damage by birds and other animals like raccoons. But the biggest enemy has been water that creeps into walls and foundations and through leaky roofs, and the destructive freezing, thawing and heaving that follows.

In 2006, the Upper Post ended up on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the country’s 11 most endangered historic places.