What Has Base Camp Seen?
Through the Eyes of Base Camp
Very Special Guest
This week our blog is truly through the eyes of Base Camp. We will be exploring the rich history of our wonderful facility with information provided by Northern Star Council's Scout Executive, John Andrews.
The birth of what is now known as the Team Center at Base Camp. This 27,000 square foot (35,000 with mezzanines) structure was constructed the same year that Lord Baden Powell started the Scouting program in England. Originally a cavalry drill hall, the Team Center hosted public viewing events with the advantage of access to the Minneapolis and Saint Paul trolley systems. The benefits of location persist today with the presence of the light rail, airport, multiple highways, river, and public lands surrounding Fort Snelling.
The Adventuring Spirit
For most modern folks the idea of camping isn't extremely comfortable, and takes a significant amount of effort. In my case, I'll spend more time planning a camp-out than actually camping. 100 years ago, camping was much more common. In fact, the first Official Council Summer Camp was scheduled in May of 1911. The Scouts were told to “take the trolley to the Fort Snelling Riding Hall”, where they debarked for “Camp Seton” at nearby Cold Spring.
Events, Events, and more Events
During the First World War, motion pictures were shown in the hall to familiarize recruits with field conditions in Europe, including trench fighting. During the peacetime period following the war, military drills were increasingly supplanted by activities such as indoor polo and ice skating. The cavalry was officially decommissioned in 1927.
The “tan bark” woodchip floor allowed the building to be flooded in the winters of 1929 and 1930 for hockey and skating rinks. Fort Snelling hockey teams competed against collegiate teams and private clubs. Ice carnivals were held in January and February 1929, including a February Winter Carnival coordinated with the St. Paul Midway Carnival Committee. The carnival featured skiing events, indoor skating and programs by “skating experts,” all culminated by a huge bonfire and fireworks over the polo grounds.
Public horse shows such as the “Fort Snelling Riding Hall Pageant,” were annual events for many years, and riding lessons for non-military personnel (including the Fort Boy Scout Troop) were also offered. Whiskey, the famous and veteran show horse, was often part of these events.
Following a devastating stable fire in 1939 and the loss of the fort’s horses, the building was converted to a field house. Concerts (including a performance by violinist Yehudi Menuhin on May 1, 1942, and the Lawrence Welk band on March 18, 1944), dances, boxing matches, basketball games and other performances also shared the space and were often broadcast by radio.
During World War II, the fort served as a vast dormitory for up to 850 men per night during the pre-induction and induction processes. The Military Intelligence Service Language School held graduation ceremonies in the Field House.
Modern Base Camp
In 2007 the Northern Star Council competed with a private developer to purchase the building and six acres from the Park Board. Scouting’s property long range plan at Fort Snelling will be completed when a $14,000,000 Leadership Center is constructed in 2017, and some 100,000 persons per year are expected to visit facilities at Base Camp thereafter!
That's a lot of information. Make your own history at Base Camp, call to schedule a program today! 612-767-0042