The expanding immigrant settlements in the West and the movement of Native American Indians to reservations in the 1880s prompted the U.S. government to begin closing the scattered military forts that had at one time provided law and order on the vast frontier. The coming of the railroads made it possible for the U.S. Army to move troops more quickly. The old forts were no longer deemed efficient or necessary.
Seeking to capitalize on Denver’s railroad connections and its strategic location, people associated with the Chamber of Commerce promoted the idea of an army post near the city. A bill introduced by Senator Henry M. Teller, authorizing establishment of an Army fort near Denver, was signed by President Cleveland in February 1887. Denver residents and businesses contributed money to buy 640 acres to donate for the post, with complete control of the land granted to the Army by the state legislature.
In March 1887, Lt. General Phil Sheridan came to Denver and, after viewing the 11 sites suggested by the local citizens’ committee, he selected a tract south of Bear Creek nearly 10 miles from downtown Denver. By September, arrangements to purchase the land were completed and in October the first soldiers arrived from forts in Kansas. They first camped on a ranch near the new military reservation. On Oct. 31, 1887, the troops moved onto the grounds of the “Camp Near the City of Denver,” marking the official beginning of the fort.
People in the area referred to the camp as “Fort Sheridan,” although no official name had been designated. However, before his death in 1888, General Sheridan indicated he preferred to have his name associated with a fort north of Chicago, which had unofficially been called “Fort Logan” in honor of the U.S. senator from Illinois who had introduced legislation in Congress to create the fort.
The new post near Denver was officially named “Fort Logan” in April 1889. John Alexander Logan had risen to the rank of general with volunteer forces of the Union Army in the Civil War. Later, as the first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, he issued a directive establishing May 30 as Decoration Day to honor the dead. This date later became the national holiday called Memorial Day. Logan had visited Colorado on several occasions and invested in silver mines in the state, but he died in 1886 before the fort that would bear his name was created.
Captain L.E. Campbell arrived in November 1887 to become Quartermaster of the post and to supervise the building program. Frank J. Grodavent was hired as architect. Construction of permanent buildings at the Fort began in 1888 with officers’ quarters adjacent to the 32-acre parade grounds and barracks for enlisted men nearby. The headquarters building, commissary, guardhouse and other permanent facilities were constructed about the same time. The last building to be built around the parade grounds was the bachelor officers’ quarters in 1897.
Colonel Henry Clay Merriam came from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in 1889 to become the commanding officer at Fort Logan, along with five companies of the famed 7th Infantry. Colonel Merriam would remain at the Fort for eight years, the longest tenure of any commander. In December 1890, troops from Fort Logan were sent to South Dakota to assist in controlling a feared Sioux uprising, but the Colorado contingent did not participate in the fighting that culminated with the massacre at Wounded Knee.
In 1894, the 2nd Cavalry at Fort Bowie, Arizona, was transferred to Fort Logan, the first cavalry troops to be stationed at the post. Cavalry units remained at Fort Logan until 1904.
Also in 1894, an Army Signal Corps observation balloon was located at Fort Logan. Following its destruction by high winds, Sergeant Ivy Baldwin, who also was a noted local aerial performer, made a second balloon with his wife’s assistance. The balloon was maintained in a large wooden hangar. When the Spanish-American War began in 1898, the balloon was sent to combat in Cuba, along with almost all the troops from Fort Logan. Used in the battle of Santiago, the balloon was shot down the second day, after gaining important information about the Spanish positions. This brought an end to ballooning at Fort Logan.
About 340 acres of land were added to the Fort in 1908. In September 1909, Fort Logan became a recruit depot, serving as an induction center for soldiers who were sent to other camps for training. The recruit center continued until 1922, when a company of the 38th Infantry was garrisoned at the Fort. Some recruiting officers remained, among whom was Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, who lived in the duplex just east of the Field Officer’s Quarters.
A 2nd Engineers unit succeeded the 38th Infantry in 1927, and in 1939 the 18th Engineers became the primary organization at Fort Logan. Much work was done to rehabilitate the old buildings and erect new ones during the 1930s. The rehabilitation efforts received assistance from the Depression-era Works Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
On Dec. 19, 1940, as a result of the armed services mobilization leading to World War II, the Fort became a subpost of the Army Air Corps Lowry Field, located on the eastern edge of Denver. The Engineers left on Feb. 28, 1941.
The Army Air Corps used Fort Logan facilities for training clerks, and later activated medical facilities as a convalescent hospital. The Army also used a portion of the grounds for a War Department personnel processing center for induction into and separation from military service. As part of the war effort, many temporary buildings were added, including the standard two-story wooden barracks. As many as 5,500 personnel were stationed at the Fort during the 1940s.
With the World War II demobilization, Fort Logan was considered excess to military needs and closed in May 1946. The Veterans Administration used the post hospital buildings until the new V.A. hospital in Denver was completed in 1951. Also, the Martin aerospace company (now Lockheed-Martin) rented several buildings late in the 1950s, pending completion of more permanent structures for its expanding missile manufacturing.
The Fort Logan National Cemetery was established in 1950, incorporating the original 3.2-acre post cemetery first used in 1889 and located near the intersection of Sheridan Boulevard and Kenyon Avenue. Today the National Cemetery includes 214 acres of land that at one time was Fort Logan acreage.
In 1960 part of the Fort land was deeded to the State of Colorado to establish a state hospital, Fort Logan Mental Health Center. New facilities for psychiatric inpatient and support services were built in the 1960s as a new era for the military post began. Offices of the Colorado Department of Human Services and other service agencies also were located on the grounds. The name changed in 1991 to Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan.
On the 232 acres that comprise the Institute’s campus are many historic buildings, some of which date back to the first construction in 1889. The Field Officer’s Quarters, now a historic museum in Building 10, is one of those early buildings. Located at 3742 West Princeton Circle, the house is owned by the State of Colorado and maintained by the Friends of Historic Fort Logan, a non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation and education.
March: Johnson Tract is selected by Lieutenant-General Sheridan as a location for the base. Officially the post was “Camp Near the City of Denver,” but some local residents hope it will be named “Fort Sheridan.”
October: First federal troops arrive in Denver, Eighteenth Infantry. The post officially opens on October 31 with Major George K. Brady as commander.
November: Frank J. Grodavent, civilian architect, is appointed as the architect for Fort Logan. Capt. Lafayette E. Campbell, Quartermaster, arrives to oversee construction.
Denver and Rio Grande Railroad builds spur line to Fort Logan. Construction of permanent buildings begins.
April: Post is officially designated as Fort Logan by the Secretary of War.
May: Two companies of the Seventh Infantry join garrison.
October: Companies from Eighteenth Infantry are relieved; two additional companies and the headquarters of the Seventh Infantry arrive at the base. Col. Henry Clay Merriam begins assignment as commanding officer at Fort Logan.
Two cavalry stables are built.
March: Troops are sent to Denver to control possible conflict in the “City Hall War.” Troops return to the post without getting involved.
July: Five companies of the Seventh Infantry are sent to Trinidad and Raton to control the Pullman strike affecting railroad traffic.
October: The first cavalry units are stationed at Fort Logan and the first Signal Corps observation balloon is sent here. Sgt. Ivy Baldwin, a noted aerialist, is in charge of the balloon.
Fort Logan is base camp for the 2nd, 7th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, and 29th Regiments of Infantry, as well as for the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 14th Regiments of Cavalry – none stay long.
April: Seventh Infantry departs to fight in the Spanish-American War. The Signal Corps observation balloon is sent to Cuba.
Thirty-fourth Infantry, U.S. Volunteers are organized and trained at Fort Logan before being sent to the Philippines.
Last cavalry units leave Fort Logan.
960 acres in Douglas County, approximately 20 miles from Fort Logan, are purchased for use as a target range.
338.4 acres are purchased, including water rights, and added to Fort Logan Military Reservation.
Fort Logan is made a recruit depot.
Fort Logan used as a Regular Army post, Recruit Depot, and a Demobilization Camp.
By General Orders of the War Department, it again becomes a garrison post.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is assigned at the post, living in the building next door to this one.
Second Engineers take over at Fort Logan.
First Battalion of the Thirty-eight Infantry arrives to form a garrison for five years.
Used as state headquarters and supply outfit for Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps.
Post rehabilitated using $1,000,000 in Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds.
Eighteenth Engineers replace Second Engineers.
By direction of the Secretary of War, Fort Logan is designated a sub-post of Lowry Field, under control of the Chief of Air Corps, to continue until June 1941. Also used as a War Department Processing Center (WDPC). A receiving post for induction or separation from all branches of the Army.
Eighteenth Engineers depart for California. Lowry Field installs clerk-typist school for its Air Corps personnel. Fort Logan is used as a holding place for a limited number of German prisoners of war.
Used as convalescent center for Air Force crews.
Used as a discharge center.
Veterans Administration continues to use the hospital until occupancy of new VA hospital in 1951. Skeleton crews of VA personnel remain until 1960.
Fort Logan National Cemetery is established to include the original post cemetery and additional land from the military post.
Federal government deeds 308 acres to the State of Colorado for a mental health center.