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Vancouver Barracks

Established in 1849, the Vancouver Barracks was the first U.S. Army base location on the Pacific Coast north of California. Built on a rise 20 feet (6 m) above the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) trading station, Fort Vancouver. Its buildings were formed in a line adjacent to the Columbia River about 2,000 yards (1800 m) from the water. It is now located within modern Vancouver.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Location Vancouver, Washington, United States
Built 1849
NRHP reference # 66000370[1]
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966



Ratified in 1846, the Treaty of Oregon was signed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the United States, thereby ending the decades long Oregon boundary dispute. The two nations agreed to a partition of the Pacific Northwest along the 49th parallel. The HBC was through the agreement permitted to continue running their stations now within American territory, which besides Fort Vancouver included Fort Colvile, Fort Nez Percés, Fort Nisqually and Cowlitz Farm.

Early historyEdit

Around October, 1852, Benjamin Bonneville arrived with orders to set up a permanent military reservation which encompassed not only the barracks but the HBC Fort Vancouver.[2] Much like Fort Vancouver, the U.S. Army would open military bases near the HBC Forts of Colvile and Nez Percés, opening Fort Walla Walla in 1858 and Fort Colville in 1859 respectively. During this time the "Indian Wars" were an ongoing series of conflicts happening in the Western United States. Famous military men such as Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Henry Sheridan, Oliver Otis Howard, C.E.S. Wood, Arthur MacArthur, Jr., and George Crook were stationed at the fort at various times.

On June 14, 1860, the HBC abandoned Fort Vancouver in favor of their stations in British Columbia, such as Fort Victoria. The Army immediately took over the location, using it for quarters and storage. The local population fluctuated seasonally, with the lowest strength being 50 people in 1861. During the American Civil War, detachments of the 1st Washington Territory Infantry Volunteers and 1st Oregon Cavalry were stationed at Vancouver Barracks.

In 1866, most of the fort burned down in a large fire. Fort Vancouver was rebuilt, with a layout that included two double-story barracks on opposite sides of the parade ground, each with a kitchen and mess room to the rear. Seven log and four frame buildings served as officer's quarters.

World WarsEdit

The post remained in active service, being expanded for World War I into Vancouver Barracks. During World War I it was the home of the Army's Spruce Production Division under the command of Colonel Brice Disque.[3] In the interwar years, the 5th Infantry Brigade was based there and from 1936 to 1938, it was commanded by future Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. In World War II when Vancouver Barracks was used as a staging area for the Seattle Port of Embarkation, the post included 3,019 acres (12.22 km2), and had billeting space for 250 officers and 7,295 enlisted persons.

After WWII, Vancouver Barracks became a sub-installation of Fort Lewis and maintained a small contingent of active duty troops; Joseph E. Kuhn commanded the post and the 5th Infantry Brigade from October 1923 to July 1925.[4]

The majority of billeting space was later transformed into military offices and became home to Army Reserve and Washington National Guard units as well.

Vancouver Barracks closed in 2011, in accordance with the requirements of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. A 2012 Memorial Day ceremony saw the south and east barracks officially turned over to the care of the National Park Service.[5]


Because of its significance in United States history a plan was put together to preserve the location. The HBC Fort Vancouver was declared a U.S. National Monument on June 19, 1948, and redesignated as Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on June 30, 1961. This was taken a step further in 1996 when a 366-acre (1.48 km2) area around the fort, including Kanaka Village, the Vancouver Barracks and the bank of the river, was established as the Vancouver National Historic Reserve maintained by the National Park Service. It is possible to tour the fort.

Names of locationEdit

Throughout its service as a U.S. Army station, Vancouver Barracks had several designations. At its foundation it was called Camp Vancouver but in 1850 it was renamed to Columbia Barracks. This name was used until 1853, when the station was renamed to Fort Vancouver, which lasted until 1879 when Vancouver Barracks was finally adopted.[6]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Elliot, 1910 & p.
  3. ^ Wells 2006.
  4. ^ Thayer, Bill. "Joseph Ernst Kuhn: Compilation of Entries in Cullum's Register, Volumes III to VIII". Bill Thayer. Retrieved April 14, 2017. 
  5. ^ Von Lunen 2012.
  6. ^ United States. National Park Service. "Vancouver Barracks." Accessed December 31, 2016.


  • Elliot, T. C. (1910), "Peter Skene Ogden", The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, 11 (3) 
  • Von Lunen, Jacques (May 29, 2012), "A Bittersweet Handoff", The Columbian, Vancouver, WA: The Columbian, pp. C1, 3, retrieved May 29, 2012 
  • Wells, Gail (2006), "Tourists Discover the Oregon Coast", Oregon History Project, Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society 

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