Founded October 22, 1862 by Brevet Major General Patrick Edward Connor and U.S. Volunteers ordered to defend western mail routes, Camp Douglas or Fort Douglas played a big part in the areas history.
The historic district encompasses a considerable area of Fort Douglas and represents five periods of construction ranging from about 1864 to 1931. Gen. Patrick E. Connor established the fort in 1862, and during the next few years, the soldiers built numerous log, adobe, and frame structures. In 1874 the Army undertook an improvement program and erected a group of red sandstone buildings that are among the most impressive on the post. Frame construction was the standard in the mid-1880’s, but after Fort Douglas gained regimental status in 1901, brick became the most used building material. Brick structures from both the 1910’s and the 1930’s are embraced by the district. The 1930’s buildings are included because they, like most of the more historically significant structures, form part of an attractive vista around the beautifully manicured parade ground.
Significant extant buildings from the 1874-76 construction program include the following:
Sandstone Officers Duplexes (buildings 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 12, 13, 14, 15).These similarly designed, T-shaped, 1 1/2-story duplexes were constructed of coursed red sandstone in 1875-76. They face generally southwest toward a bandstand and semicircular drive, and most measure about 48 feet across and 83 feet deep. Buildings 6 and 15 are slightly smaller. Each structure has a gable roof pierced by three red brick chimneys, and both sides of each wing have gabled dormers. The buildings exhibit variations of trussed bargeboards that terminate in a spike at the ridge and a perforated octagon at the lower ends. A hip-roofed veranda extends across the front of each dwelling. Originally these porches were
supported by turned wood posts, but these have been replaced with wrought iron. Most of the windows are six-over-six sash with stone sills and segmental stone arches. Sometime after 1920 the rear of each structure received a small, single-story, hip-roofed addition of red brick. Front entrance to a typical duplex is through a double door topped by a transom. The first floor contains a long entrance hall with a single-flight, balustraded stair. A living room and parlor or library are to one side, and a dining room and modern kitchen are in the rear. Bedrooms are upstairs, and modern heating equipment is in the basement. All 10 structures are in excellent condition.
Sandstone Officers Quarters (building 4). Erected about 1876, this 1 1/2-story, red sandstone residence served during the late 19th century as the commanding officer’s quarters. Col. Patrick E. Connor and the California Volunteers founded Fort Douglas in September 1862. Situated in the
foothills of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City, the installation represented an effort by the Federal Government to protect transcontinental telegraph lines and mail and transportation routes against hostile Indians during the Civil War. Fort Douglas became more than
another Indian-fighting outpost, however. Five years earlier the United States had sent a military expedition to Utah Territory to compel the predominantly Mormon population to cooperate with Federal officials, and the establishment of Fort Douglas gave the Government a new advantage in that continuing struggle. While the first occupation force had been obliged to settle for a temporary camp at the lower end of Salt Lake Valley, Cpnnor’s, men and their successors enjoyed a permanent base of operations
only a few miles from the Mormon capital. Moreover, as economic historian Leonard J. Arrington has pointed out, the Fort Douglas troops pioneered mining in Utah. Hoping to attract Gentiles to the territory, Connor directed his command to explore it for mineral deposits. Not only was this activity somewhat unusual for Federal troops, it was also highly successful. The soldiers discovered gold, silver, and lead and publicized their finds in the widely circulated Union Vedette, the post newspaper and first non-Mormon journal in Utah.
Fort Douglas declined in importance in the last quarter of the 19th century, but during World War I it served as a training center and prisoner-of-war camp. Today visitors can see buildings from every period of the post’s history. They display a variety of construction materials and styles, and most are in good condition.
It has undergone considerable alteration, including a brick addition to the rear. The front facade still exhibits the same kind of trussed bargeboard trim found on the officers’ duplexes, however. The interior has been converted into four apartments.
Old Post Headquarters (building 49). Formerly U-shaped, this 1 1/2-story, gable-roofed, red sandstone structure was erected in 1875. It has undergone extensive alteration, but the original exterior outline is clearly visible. Moreover, the building displays trussed bargeboards that match those on
the sandstone officers 1 duplexes. At present the old headquarters serves as an officers club.
Old Enlisted Men’s Barracks (buildings 19, 20, 31, 32). Buildings 31 and 32 are almost identical. These one-story, red sandstone structures were erected on the southern edge of the parade ground between 1874 and 1876, They are U-shaped and gable roofed. Initially a railless frame veranda on brick piers extended approximately 105 feet across the front facade of each building, but early in this century, the Army replaced the old verandas with new ones featuring sandstone foundations, concrete floors, and railings. Of particular note are the windows, all of which are six-over-six sash with
smooth stone sills and lintels. Both structures stand vacant but are being preserved, and building 31 has been selected to house the post museum. A similar pair of barracks stands on the northern edge of the parade ground. Having been converted into modern officers’ quarters, buildings 19 and 20
no longer have verandas, though. A gabled portico supported by four Doric columns has been added to the entrance of building 20, which is the residence of the post commander.
Oil House (building 39). This single-story, rectangular-shaped red sandstone structure was built in 1876 for use as an oil warehouse. It has a gable roof and measures about 30 by 20 feet. There are two rear and two front shuttered windows and a centrally located front door. All openings are topped by a segmental brick arch.
Old Commanding Officer’s Residence (building 55). Sometimes referred to as “Connor’s Home,” this white, stuccoed adobe structure with frame addition is believed to have been the residence of Gen. Patrick E. Connor during part of his tenure as post commander. Although the one-story, L-shaped dwelling has been altered considerably, it resembles houses
shown in an 1868 Fort Douglas photograph published in the Utah Historical Quarterly, XXXIII (pages 326-327). Two interior chimneys pierce the gable roof, and a shed porch shelters the front entrance.
Chapel (building S48). Erected in 1884, the chapel is a one-story, rectangular-shaped, frame structure with a gable roof. Front entrance is through a square tower at the northeast corner of the building. A belfry, steeple, and Celtic cross crown the tower. Tan asbestos shingles cover
the exterior walls, while four lancet windows grace both the north and south sides. A centrally placed tracery window adorns the front facade. The structure is in good condition and still in use.
Frame Officers Duplexes (buildings 2, 16, 17). These 1 1/2-story, frame structures were erected in 1884 on the same basic plan and with the same kind of bargeboard trim as the sandstone dwellings on Officers 1 Circle. Unlike their masonry counterparts, these residences have no 20th-century rear additions. Recently, however, white aluminum was placed over the original yellow-painted weatherboarding.
Stable (building 101). Erected in 1886, this gable-roofed, red sandstone structure measures 37 feet wide and 303 feet long. Currently it is used as a warehouse, and an enclosed 14-foot-wide shed has been built along each side for additional storage space. The stalls have been removed too, but the
original stable walls are intact, as are the hayloft and some offices.
Bakery (building 28). Records in the post engineer’s office show that the bakery was erected in 1884, but the design and materials correspond to the 1875-76 construction period. The one-story, rectangular-shaped structure is built of coursed red sandstone and has a gable roof.
Old Bachelor Officers’ Quarters (building 5). This elegant two-story, L-shaped, red brick structure was constructed around the turn of the century. It has a hip roof, seven interior chimneys, a sandstone foundation, a stone water table, and a bracket-supported wooden cornice. Extending across the front facade is a two-tiered, balustraded veranda with wooden Doric columns and three short stairs that provide access from the street. The southernmost stair is sheltered by a two-story, pedimented portico, and entrance to this part of the building is through a double door flanked by side and transom lights. The interior has been altered to accomodate the Marine Corps Recruiting Service.
Enlisted Men’s Barracks (buildings 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108).These two-story, U-shaped structures were built between 1904 and 1910 as part of a major post improvement program. Situated around Soldiers’ Circle, they are constructed of red brick, and their gable roofs are covered with slate
shingles. The original porches have been removed from the front of the buildings, but they have undergone no other significant external changes. Interiors have been altered for educational and administrative use.
New Officers Quarters (buildings 21, 22, 23, 24, 25). These two-story, gable-roofed cottages consist of a central block with one wing. Built of red brick in 1931, they are trimmed in white-painted wood, and each structure has a flat-roofed, single-bay, front entrance portico supported by two Doric columns and two pilasters. The quarters face the west corner of the parade ground.
Within the boundary there are several other structures that have not been described. Only five were constructed after 1931, though, and generally these are stylistically compatible with the other 20th-century buildings.
Boundary. Beginning at the intersection of Hempstead Road and the access street behind the buildings fronting onto Soldiers 1 Circle, a line extending along the curving service road to Fort Douglas Boulevard; thence northwestward along Fort Douglas Boulevard to the service road behind the structures fronting onto Officers Circle; thence northeastward along that service road to a point immediately to the rear of building 14; thence due southeast to the old oil house, building 39, around the structure, and
back to the Officers’ Circle road; thence northward along the service road to a point immediately to the rear of building 13; thence northeastward across Connor Road and around the old commanding officer’s residence, building 55; thence northeastward along Connor road to Vollum Street; thence southwestward along Vollum Street to the service road behind the structures fronting onto Fort Douglas Boulevard; thence northwestward
along the service road to the military reservation boundary; thence southwestward to Fort Douglas Boulevard; thence southeastward along the boulevard and the reservation boundary to the rear of the officer’s club; thence southeastward to the service road behind De Tobriand and Chase Streets and along that access route to Wasatch Drive; thence southward
along the military reservation boundary to the starting point at Hempstead Road.
Led by Brigham Young, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began settling in Salt Lake Valley in 1847. They formed a theocratic government and within a few years turned much of the Great Basin into green farmland. In 1850 Congress designated the area Utah Territory,
but sharp disagreement arose between the Mormons and their newly appointed Federal officials. Opposing all measures that promised to weaken their institutions, the Saints exerted complete control over Indian affairs and empowered the territory’s probate courts to hear cases tried ordinarily
before U.S. tribunals.
Against this background of noncooperation with Federal authorities, the Mormons announced in 1852 that they believed in and practiced the doctrine of plural wives. For a time this belief received little notice outside Utah. Gradually, however, other Americans became aware of it, and a public outcry ensued. In 1857, with eastern protests against polygamy growing louder and the struggle for judicial supremacy in Utah worsening, President James Buchanan decided to send 2,500 U.S. troops to the territory to remind the Saints that they remained under American rule. After moving hundreds of wagonloads of supplies halfway across the continent and
surviving a number of Mormon harassment raids, the expedition
crossed the Wasatch Mountains and entered Salt Lake Valley in
midsummer of 1858. At once the soldiers began constructing Camp Floyd at a hastily selected site midway between Provo and Salt Lake City, while Gov. Alfred W. Gumming tried to bring new direction to the territorial government.
0000Early in 1861 the more pressing problem of Southern secession forced the War Department to withdraw its occupation forces from Utah for utilization elsewhere. President Abraham Lincoln’s administration remained uneasy about Mormon intentions, though, and felt particular concern about the possibility of Indian attacks closing the now vulnerable
overland communication and transportation routes. Accordingly, the War Department ordered Gen. George Wright, commander of the Department of the Pacific, to safeguard telegraph lines, mail routes, and emigrant trails in Utah, Nevada, and California. In mid-1862 Wright sent Col. Patrick E. Connor to Utah with approximately 750 California Volunteers. The
command reached Salt Lake City early in September, and after reconnoitering the surrounding countryside, Connor situated his troops on a rise in the Wasatch foothills only a few miles east of the Mormon capital. In October the new post was officially christened Camp Douglas in honor of Senator Stephen A. Douglas.
Having arrived late in the year, the Volunteers hastened to erect temporary winter quarters. These consisted of tent-covered dugouts for enlisted men and log-and-adobe-covered dugouts for the officers. The following spring the soldiers built more permanent quarters, mostly of frame construction.
Among these were 11 barracks, 8 officers’ residences, 12 dwellings for married soldiers, and a hospital.
Connor did not wait until spring to direct his attention to Indian affairs, however. Knowing that bands of Shoshones, Bannocks, and Utes had been harassing the Overland Mail and tormenting miners for years in northern Utah and southern Idaho, he set out after the militant Shoshoni leader Bear
Hunter in January 1863 and found him and his party encamped in a ravine near Bear River 140 miles north of Salt Lake City. Shortly after daybreak on January 27 the soldiers attacked. When the fighting ended in midmorning, 224 Shoshoni men, women, and children lay dead on the battlefield. The War Department considered the bloody episode a signal achievement and promoted Connor to brigadier general. During the ensuing months troops
from Camp Douglas engaged in numerous lesser encounters with Utes, Bannocks, and other bands, and in the fall Connor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs James D. Doty made peace with almost all the Indians in the territory. Relative calm prevailed until the Black Hawk War of 1865, after which less significant outbreaks occurred periodically through the 1880’s.
With the Indian problem temporarily under control, General Connor turned next to the Mormons. He disliked them immensely, and although he had no proof, he was convinced that they had encouraged the Indian depredations. Furthermore, he became outraged at the high prices that his command had to pay for supplies purchased from the Saints. After his superiors ignored
his suggestion that martial law be declared in Utah, Connor stumbled upon another way to combat what he regarded as the Mormon menace.
In September 1863 a group of Saints accidentally unearthed some silver ore while dragging logs in Bingham Canyon, where they shared a grazing area with several Camp Douglas Volunteer units. The Mormons took the ore to Connor, who had it assayed and directed the iinmediate formation of the Jordan Silver Mining Company and the West Mountain Quartz Mining District. These represented Utah’s first recorded mining claim and first formally organized mining district. Other discoveries followed, and
Connor decided that the so-called Mormon problem could be solved if the territory’s mineral resources were properly exploited and Gentile miners encouraged to immigrate.
Toward that end the general sent military patrols throughout the territory in search of gold, silver, and lead. In addition, to publicize the soldiers’ numerous discoveries, he established a post newspaper, The Union Vedette. It was the first non-Mormon paper in the territory, and by 1864 it
had become the first daily and had gained wide circulation both in Utah and in neighboring States and territories. Although Connor never realized his dream of submerging the Mormons in a sea of Gentiles, his newspaper continued in operation until November 1867, and ultimately he became known as the Father of Utah Mining.
When the Civil War ended, the War Department mustered nearly all the California Volunteers out of the service, and in 1866 the 18th Infantry moved into Camp Douglas. Early in the 1870’s, a resumption of Indian difficulties lent the post new importance, and in 1874 the Army undertook a reconstruction program there. During the next 2 years, the camp was almost completely rebuilt with red sandstone, and in 1878 it was
redesignated Fort Douglas.
With the extension of railroads into the Mountain West in the 1880’s, the Army began to concentrate its forces at a number of larger posts. Upon the recommendations of Gen. George Crook and Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, the War Department made Fort Douglas one of the principal military installations in the central Rockies. It absorbed the garrisons of Fort
Hall in Idaho and Forts Thornburgh and Cameron in Utah, and in 1884 several frame structures were erected to house the additional personnel.
By this time life at Fort Douglas had become fairly routine, although during a series of Federal polygamy prosecutions in 1888, some of the troops were stationed in downtown Salt Lake City to maintain order. In 1898 the War Department withdrew most of the garrison for service in the Spanish-American War, but the post census soared again when the 12th Infantry
was assigned there in 1902. Several barracks buildings, a post exchange, and a hospital were erected to accomodate the new residents.
World War I brought another flurry of activity. In the fall of 1916 the Government opened one of its national physical preparedness camps at Fort Douglas, and in 1917 some 4,000-5,000 recruits arrived there for combat training. Perhaps the most distinguished wartime inhabitants of the post were 331 German prisoners who were incarcerated in a frame barracks surrounded by two barbed wire fences. Various units occupied
Fort Douglas between the World Wars, and in the 1930’s the post served as a district headquarters and training camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps. None of the temporary buildings associated with these various activities survive. In 1942, soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army’s regional headquarters or 9th Service Command moved to
Fort Douglas and remained until 1946. Since then the post has housed Army finance offices and a number of reserve groups.