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Fort Douglas

Coordinates: 40°45′55″N 111°49′59″W / 40.76528°N 111.83306°W / 40.76528; -111.83306
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Fort Douglas
Fort Douglas Military Museum, May 2022
Fort Douglas is located in Utah
Fort Douglas
Fort Douglas is located in the United States
Fort Douglas
LocationSalt Lake City, Utah
Coordinates40°45′55″N 111°49′59″W / 40.76528°N 111.83306°W / 40.76528; -111.83306
Area25 acres (10 ha) (landmarked area)
NRHP reference No.70000628
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 15, 1970[1]
Designated NHLDMay 15, 1975[2]

Fort Douglas (initially called Camp Douglas) was established in October 1862, during the American Civil War, as a small military garrison about three miles east of Salt Lake City, Utah. Its purpose was to protect the overland mail route and telegraph lines along the Central Overland Route. It was officially closed in 1991 pursuant to BRAC action.[3] A small portion of the fort remains in active military use as the Stephen A. Douglas Armed Forces Reserve Center, although it is expected the reserve center will be relocated in the next few years, after the state of Utah provided funds for the purpose in 2023.

Most of the fort's former property has been turned over to the University of Utah and many of its buildings are preserved and used by the university for a variety of purposes. The Fort Douglas Military Museum is housed in two former barracks buildings. The fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, for its role in the Civil War and in furthering the settlement of Utah.[4]


Camp Douglas, Utah Territory, 1866


Early in the Civil War, the threat of violence increased with the withdrawal of Federal troops from the West for use against the Confederate States of America. Colonel Patrick Connor was ordered to reestablish a military presence with volunteer soldiers in the Utah Territory. He selected a site east of Salt Lake City, and Camp Douglas, named after Senator Stephen A. Douglas, was officially established there on October 26, 1862. Connor's men were Union volunteers from both California and Nevada. The post served as headquarters for the District of Utah in the Department of the Pacific.

Regular Army arrives, 1866–1874[edit]

Following the end of the Civil War, between 1866 and 1898, the fort was part of the Department of the Platte. Its importance increased when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads joined rails at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.


Through the efforts of Utah's U.S. Sen. Thomas Kearns, the camp became a regimental post and was renamed "Fort Douglas."

World War I[edit]

Several Germans in the internment camp at Fort Douglas during World War I

During World War I, the fort was used as an camp during German American internment, and as a camp for Imperial German Navy POWs. One of the crews kept there was from the SMS Cormoran, which had left the German colony of Qingdao, China, at the beginning of the war and stopped at Guam in December 1914 to refuel and take on provisions. Denied the coal needed for their boilers, the German captain reluctantly submitted to detention. When the United States entered the war on the Allied side in 1917, the crew were made prisoners of war and were sent to Fort Douglas.[5]

Commander's House. Built in 1875 as barracks, remodeled for the commanding officer in 1929.

Interwar period[edit]

In 1922, the fort became the base of the 38th Infantry, which remained there until August 1940.

World War II[edit]

Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Fort Douglas became an Army Air Field in conjunction with Salt Lake City Municipal Airport[6] and housed the 7th Bombardment Group operating B-17 Flying Fortresses. However, Fort Douglas proper was taken over by the Army ground forces when fears of a Japanese attack of the U.S. mainland caused the 9th Service Command Headquarters to move from Utah to the Presidio of San Francisco.

Final years, 1945–1991[edit]

After World War II, the Army began disposing of its land, transferring it to the University of Utah, located adjacent to it. However, it maintained Army Reserve functions there for decades, notably with the 96th Army Reserve Command under the command of Maj. Gen. Michael B. Kauffman, who had spent much of his Army career at the fort and was instrumental in keeping it alive well past its announced closing in the 1970s. The Fort Douglas Military Museum is housed in a building named after Maj. Gen. Kauffman, who founded the museum and built it into one of the United States' premier military museums featuring exhibits from all branches of the Armed Services.

Between 1962 and 1973, Fort Douglas was the site of the Deseret Test Center (Buildings 103 and 105) with the responsibility of evaluating chemical and biological weapons, although no tests were actually performed on the base.

On October 26, 1991, the fort closed officially, though the Utah National Guard maintained control of the museum, and the 96th ARCOM received the parts of the fort that were not deeded to the university.


Armed Forces Reserve Center[edit]

Fort Douglas Reserve Center, Soldier's Circle

A small portion of the southwestern section of the original fort remains in use by the U.S. Army Reserve. This portion of the fort is designated the Stephen A. Douglas Armed Forces Reserve Center. The reserve center consists of 51 acres, and includes the historic Soldier's Circle, along with several sub-installation buildings.

The center hosts offices, along with training and support space for 'headquarters staff for two Army Reserve commands, and staff from other Army, Navy and Marine Reserve units'. There have been some attempts to relocate the center to allow the University of Utah to grow its campus. A law requires the property be given to the University of Utah, without charge, once the military declares it surplus.[7]

In 2023, the Utah State Legislature allocated $100 million, via Senate Bill 2,[8] to facilitate the relocation of the Reserve Center from Fort Douglas to land near the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams in Bluffdale. The funds will be used to acquire property, and for the design and construction of facilities at the new site. As of 2023, no timeline for the relocation had been finalized.[9]

Commands hosted[edit]

As of 2023, the commands hosted at the reserve center include:

University of Utah Campus[edit]

In 1991, the University of Utah received a significant portion of the fort's remaining property. During the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, much of the university's campus was used to host events. The Olympic Organizing Committee and university built the Olympic Village to house participating athletes on former fort property; the village housing now serves as on-campus housing for university students. Stilwell Field is used as a parking lot during special events, such as football games. The Officers' Club building is used as a conference center by the university, and several of the officer's quarters house university departments (such as the American Indian Resource Center).

There has been some controversy surrounding the university's stewardship of the historic fort property. In 2015 it was revealed that during construction work to upgrade the university's electrical system, buried period artifacts had been removed and discarded at a landfill.[11]


Fort Douglas Post Cemetery

A cemetery was established in 1862 about a mile south of the original parade grounds. In 1864, the soldiers at the post improved the cemetery significantly. They erected a monument in the center dedicated to the memory of the soldiers killed during the Bear River Massacre. They also constructed a red sandstone wall around the cemetery, with a steel gate located at the north end. The following year, a smaller monument was added for Utah Gov. James D. Doty following his death and burial in the cemetery. Later, the cemetery was expanded to accommodate a larger number of burials, not only from the fort, but also from Fort Cameron following its closure. A special section of the cemetery was also added for the German prisoners of war who died here during World War II.

The Fort Douglas Cemetery continues to be an active federal military cemetery, actively maintained. A list of cemetery burials is available through the Utah History Research Center's cemetery database. The cemetery was damaged during the 2020 Utah windstorm, during which hurricane-force winds knocked down large trees, damaging headstones and other historic features of the cemetery.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "Fort Douglas". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  3. ^ Bauman, Joseph (14 June 1991). "FORT DOUGLAS CLOSURE TO DISPLACE 278". www.deseretnews.com. Deseret News. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  4. ^ "NHL nomination for Fort Douglas". National Park Service. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
  5. ^ Robert F. Rogers, Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam (University of Hawaii Press, 1995), 134–40, available online, accessed April 1, 2011
  6. ^ Hibbard, Charles G. (1994), "Fort Douglas", Utah History Encyclopedia, University of Utah Press, ISBN 9780874804256, archived from the original on November 28, 2023, retrieved April 24, 2024
  7. ^ Maffly, Brian (3 October 2012). "Is it time for the University of Utah to take over Fort Douglas?". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  8. ^ Utah State Legislature (2023). "S.B. 2 New Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations Act". Archived from the original on September 4, 2023. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  9. ^ Cortez, Marjorie (March 9, 2023). "University of Utah gets $100M to move military reserve center from historic Fort Douglas". Deseret News. Salt Lake City. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  10. ^ a b Army Reserve Strategic Communications (2022). "Army Reserve: At a Glance" (PDF). usar.army.mil. United States Army Reserve. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 15, 2022. Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  11. ^ Rolly, Paul (18 June 2015). "Rolly: Treasured history bites the dust as U. mistakenly digs up, destroys Fort Douglas artifacts". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  12. ^ "Wind Damage to Historic Fort Douglas Post Cemetery". NPS.gov. National Park Service. September 22, 2020. Retrieved February 19, 2021. Hurricane level winds measured at up to 112 mph knocked down hundreds of big trees in Salt Lake City on Sept. 8, 2020. Some fallen trees damaged graves and headstones at historic Fort Douglas Post Cemetery, near the University of Utah campus.


  • Madsen, Brigham D. The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1985)
  • Hibbard, Charles G. Fort Douglas, Utah: A Frontier Fort (Vestige Press, 1999)

External links[edit]