By Mick Woodcock

After thirty-four years of active service, Fort Whipple was to be shut down on April 25, 1898, the same day Congress declared war on Cuba.  The officer on hand to close down the post instead became the mustering officer for the Arizona men who volunteered for the First U. S. Volunteer Cavalry, the Rough Riders.

The post then was used to muster Companies A, B and C of the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry.  Commanded by former territorial governor Myron McCord, they trained at Fort Hamilton near Lexington, Kentucky.  Suffering “the coldest winter on record,” they moved south to Camp Churchman in Albany, Georgia.

The post was then inactive for three years, but was reactivated on April 29, 1902.  An inspection of the buildings concluded that few were worth rehabilitating.  Plans were made for the construction of a new post with work beginning in 1903.

The resulting architecture reflects the nationwide transitions from the turn of the century to 1939 when the prevailing mode returned to the more conservative Revival styles.  The revival of interest in classical models dates from the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.  Roofs are side or front gabled, or hipped.

Contracts were opened in May 1903 for 24 buildings, including a double barracks, a single barracks, officers’ quarters, captains’ quarters (3), lieutenants’ quarters (6), non-commissioned officers’ quarters (4), a guard house, an administration building, a bake house, coal shed, ordnance house, oil house and wagon shed.  All but one of the new quarters buildings (#1-11) were constructed on Headquarters Hill of concrete block on locally quarried granite foundations.  The one exception, Building 1, was built of brick in 1903.  Originally, all 11 of the officers’ quarters were to be constructed of brick.

Captain Charles C. Walcutt, the constructing quartermaster in charge of the work at Fort Whipple, was charged with “the responsibility in submitting plans and suggesting various matters that go with the reconstruction of this post.”  He used that authority to deviate from the standard plans and use redwood—which was readily available by rail from California—for the interior finishes and to make other substitutions in the wood specifications to use other local products that could be obtained at a savings.

Frederick H. Barnes of San Francisco, the contractor hired to build these quarters, experienced difficulties in acquiring the necessary amount of brick and in meeting the army specifications.  In July 1905, the Weekly Journal Miner reported that Barnes had leased a local brickyard for the sole purpose of assuring he could get the brick he needed without delay.  This did not result in a solution to the problem.  Captain Walcutt reported in May 1906 that “the great difficulty that surrounds the work of this contract is that of the proper brick … Mr. Barnes has up to this time made a complete failure.  He has not gone at it in a way from which success could be expected.”

Because Barnes was unable to meet the contract requirements, the contract was turned over to Warren B. English, at Barnes’ expense.  English also experienced difficulty in producing an acceptable quality of brick and was informed that the army intended to relieve him of the contract.  To avoid losing the contract, English signed a power of attorney with Charles Haney of Prescott, to complete the contract.   Haney located sources of material for concrete block and requested that the specifications be changed to allow it to be substituted for brick.  The quartermaster general approved this change, but not before Building 1 had been completed of brick.

Eventually, the problems were solved and construction commenced.  On August 25, 1908, Major Walcutt announced that over $568,000 had been spent at Fort Whipple and that the extensive improvements were nearing completion.   By October 18, 1908, Charles F. Haney had finished the construction of 23 buildings.

Between 1902 and 1913, the post usually had an infantry company and a cavalry troop assigned, but by August 1913, the only enlisted man stationed there filed the last post return.  In February 1917, Congress looked to close Whipple permanently, but much local and state effort and America’s entry into World War I forestalled that.

Next Week in Days Past: The old fort becomes an Army general hospital.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.