Fort Omaha Walking Tour
As a result of a major confrontation from 1866-1868 between the U.S. Army and the Lakota (Sioux), the U.S. government signed a treaty agreeing that the Army would abandon several posts along the Bozeman Trail. By this time, the Union Pacific had also reached the Rockies, so the Army began planning for a single post to replace those abandoned. The new post would be a place where troops could be wintered and sent out by rail whenever needed.
Recognizing the potential for economic growth, Omaha competed with other towns to win the planned post. The city cited its railroad and river transportation systems, and already established businesses as the support the army would need. To make the new headquarters possible, civic leaders purchased 42 acres from Augustus Kountze, a prominent Omaha banker, and offered to lease it to the government at an undervalued price.
The U.S. Army accepted Omaha's offer. Construction of "Omaha Barracks" began in September 1868 and was completed in three months. The post housed a regiment of more than 650 men. Following custom, the main buildings were built around a large parade ground. The first troops arrived in November - Battery C, 3rd U.S. Artillery from Fort Kearney, Nebraska.
Over the years brick buildings replaced wooden ones. The Infantry and Cavalry were succeeded by the Army Signal Corps (1905-1913) and the Observation Balloon Corps (1916-1919). During the 1920's and 1930's the Fort was continuously occupied. After 1935 the Fort was used as a residence post for officers on duty at Seventh Corps area headquarters. During World War II it served as a support installation for the Seventh Service Command.
In 1947 the Army declared the Fort surplus property and it was taken over by the Navy as a Reserve Training Center. In 1973 the Defense Department again declared Fort Omaha "excess" to their needs.
Created in 1974, Metropolitan Community College received deed to the property in August 1975. Through extensive interior renovation and exterior refurbishing, Fort Omaha became Metro's first permanent campus. In keeping with tradition, several Army Reserve units currently train here.
Terms of the deed stipulate that the Parade Ground must be maintained as an open field and that the exteriors of brick buildings cannot be changed. The College has preserved the historic look of Fort Omaha while creating an environment conducive to a progressive, two-year community college.