A Civil War Relic, Historic Fort D Is Placed On National Register Of Historic Places

Aug 12, 2019

Credit Tori Bowden/KRCU

Fort D Historic Site in Cape Girardeau has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, a program overseen by the National Park Service.

Friends of Fort D coordinator, Scott House, who worked on the application, says the important nomination comes after after about 10 years since he started working with the Cape Girardeau Historic Preservation Commission.

“About two years ago I cleared my plate enough to be able to spend the time necessary on it,” says House.  

Much of the work over those two years involved rewriting drafts, supplying sources, adding narratives, and doing research. Those drafts, by the end, ranged from 75-90 pages. 

“Anyone can submit a national register nomination, but the chances are slim if you don’t work on it really hard,” says House.

The National Register was initiated in the 1960s, says House. It’s often used to help reduce taxes for privately owned sites.

His argument for fort’s significance included its role in local Civil War history, and its architectural importance through a 1930s building on site and the only redan - a v-shaped earthwork -  in the state.

One of the most significant facts about Fort D is its connection to John Wesley Powell, who became one of the most famous scientists of the later 1800’s.

“We made this point, and it was acknowledged that his career was a success partially because he got a start at Fort D in Cape Girardeau and the other forts in Cape Girardeau,” says House.

Powell’s friendship with General Ulysses S. Grant kindled at Fort D made his later work possible as he mapped the Colorado River and the American West, House says. 

House was helped by his wife, Patti, Bill Eddleman with the Cape Girardeau Research Center of the State Historical Society, and Amber Cox of the State Historic Preservation Office. 

“Several of us have talked about this for a number of years, and all agreed that it probably should be on the National Register of Historic Places,” says Eddleman.

The application was first sent to the state Historic Preservation Commission in Cape Girardeau, and then to the State Historic Preservation Office, during which time the state held a site visit on the topic. Afterwards, it went to the State Advisory Commission. 

The National Park Service took a final look, and approved Fort D for its state-level significance.

“It’s primarily a recognition that, officially, it is a significant site,” Eddleman says. “It doesn’t carry, in this case, any financial benefit. Because normally the financial benefit of having a property on the national register is that if you renovate it, in keeping with the guidelines for which it was listed, you can get tax credits.”

That doesn’t apply to Fort D because it is public property owned by the city.

In fact, it’s one of the last urban forts still in existence in Missouri. Other forts across the state, which were meant to secure cities from invasion by Confederate Armies, were often destroyed and built over during construction projects.

If things go as planned, the 1937 building within Fort D will likely receive a new roof. Eddleman says many people come to realize they have a historical connection to the building if their families are from the area. For example, Eddleman’s great-great-grandfather was in the enrolled Missouri militia, and did guard duty at the site.

House and Eddleman encourage the public to visit the site on Labor Day when Friends of Fort D provide historic reenactments.