Fort Snelling was part of a chain of military forts along the Northwest Frontier after the War of 1812. These forts were used to control commercial use of the rivers, enforce U.S. law, and protect travelers and traders. Ft. Snelling is located at the meeting point of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, a key intersection for both military and commercial traffic.

The fort was built to be self-sufficient and maintained gardens and herds of livestock to supply the soldiers. Over time, it became a supply point for immigrants, tourists, goverment officials, and military officers traveling through the area, as well as a center for traders, settlers, and tribal members. The first commander of the fort, Colonel Josiah Snelling, partnered with local efforts to mediate disputes between the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes, helping to promote good relations with the area's inhabitants.

During the U.S. Civil War, the fort was a training center for the Union Army. After the war, it became a supply base and headquarters for the U.S. Army Department of Dakota (which covered Minnesota, Dakota Territory, and Montana Territory). New buildings replacing the original barracks and storehouses were erected towards the end of the 19th century.

By 1945, it had changed considerably from the original eighteen buildings established within the fort walls by 1835. By this time, the original fort walls were removed and a number of the original buildings were either altered or deconstructed. The fort had also expanded well beyond its original walls to include more than four hundred buildings. Fort Snelling was retired from military service in 1946.


IATH created a set of models of the Fort Snelling building complex at three historically significant times: 1838, 1862, and 1945. These models explore the transformation not only of the physical architecture but also the historic landscape of the area. The reconstruction phases depict a fully operational frontier fort in 1838, an internment camp for seventeen hundred Dakota in 1862, and a military recruitment and training center in 1945.

Animation 1 depicts an aerial view of the digitally reconstructed fort, highlighting the changes that occurred between 1838 and 1945. Animation 2 is a fly-through of the 1862 internment camp and fort, combined with historic photographs. Animation 3 is a slideshow of still renders that highlights the evolution of the architecture, landscape, and use of Historic Fort Snelling across the three eras.