Historic Structures Report
Part II — Historical Data Section
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Chapter 4

The four structures—guardhouse, well canopy, flag pole, and magazine—no longer stand at Fort Scott. The Master Plan provides for their reconstruction as part of the historic scene. In the case of the guardhouse and magazine, this reconstruction will be of the exterior only; thus the two structures will be only shells.

HS 9, Guardhouse

Work on this one-story, stone building did not commence until after October 1, 1844. [1] Inasmuch as this was one of the few buildings made of native limestone, it is especially regrettable that the post quartermaster did not leave a detailed report on it. No reference to the structure appears in the records until Lieutenant Wallace's transmittal of his 1848 fort plan. At that time he showed the guardhouse as completed. It too had a 10-foot porch along the front, lining up with the porches of the hospital and the infantry barracks. This porch was shorter than the others and had only four pillars supporting its roof.

The interior of the building was divided into four rooms, one of which was further divided into three cells. [2] Although the uses of the rooms were not indicated, they undoubtedly were similar to other guardhouses at other posts. Based on this assumption, the northeast room, being the largest, would have housed the off-duty reliefs of the daily guard mount. This guard room opened into the room containing the three dark cells, in the southeast corner. This room, in turn, opened into what would probably have been the prison room (for drunks and other, less serious cases), in the southwest corner of the structure. The room in the northwest corner, which opened only onto the porch, would undoubtedly have been set aside for the officer of the guard.

When the Army advertised the fort buildings for sale in 1855, its description of the guardhouse was terse, "a stone building, 32 feet square, containing four rooms." [3] Who purchased the building and for what use is unknown. There is a possibility it was acquired by the town prior to the Civil War for use as a jail. However, other evidence suggests that the city did not acquire the guardhouse for that purpose until 1870. [4] In the meantime, the Army rented the building during the Civil War and converted it into a part of the general hospital.

The guardhouse was definitely used as the city jail in the post-war years. A photograph taken about then shows it looking much like it was described by the Army. One significant difference is a stone lean-to at the rear of the building that appears in the photograph but not in the Army's plans. It did not make the best of jails: "Escaped—A couple of prisoners at the calaboose, on Sunday night, getting tired of their enforced restraint, tunneled through some masonry which had been poorly laid in to block up an old window, and took leg-bail." [5]

Today the site is occupied by a brick building that until recently was the police headquarters and city jail. This more modern structure is unused today, but its yard still serves as a parking area for city-owned vehicles.

HS 15, Well Canopy

The digging of the well toward the north side of the parade ground received a high priority in Swords' plans. By October 1843, he was happy to report that the 65-foot well had been dug, "the whole of it, with the exception of about 5 feet near the surface, having been blasted through successive strata of limestone, slate and coal." [6]

Neither Swords nor his successors referred to the construction of the pillared canopy over the top of the well. They probably avoided mentioning it for fear that the quartermaster general would get exercised over its elaborate use of materials at a time when supplies were scarce and budgets low. The first reference to the octagonal canopy was a suggestion of its existence in the 1848 plan of the fort, wherein the well was described as being completed. A sole photograph, taken about 1865, shows the canopy in the background. While this is not a clear picture, it depicts the eight white columns and the low domed roof that architecturally complemented the magazine on the opposite side of the parade. One 1850's description referred to the columns as being Doric in order, another said they were Corinthian. [7]

In 1870, the local paper reported that this well was the deepest in town. Even then, the newspaper chopped ten feet off it, saying it was 55 feet, "and on examination recently, after being long unused, it was found to contain thirty feet of water." The reporter added that it was "to be cleaned out, a pump inserted, and made to do service again for the public who visit the Plaza." [8] Today the well is covered with a concrete cover, and no trace of the original canopy remains.

HS 16, Flag Pole

Captain Swords planned to place the flag pole in the center of the parade ground. As late as 1848, however, the pole had not been erected simply because no suitable timber with which to make one had been procured. There is no other reference to the flag pole in the records during the military period. Whether or not a staff was put up in the last years of the fort's existence remains unknown. The town newspaper, in 1861 on the eve of the war, editorialized that a flag pole should be erected on the Plaza. [9]

The 1848 plan shows an unidentified object that had been erected on the south side of the flag pole site. While it is not possible to identify this semi-circular structure with certainty, its location and shape suggest it may have been a sun dial, a not unusual item to be found on Army posts at that time.

HS 17, Magazine

The appearance of Fort Scott's magazine indicates clearly that Captain Swords borrowed the concept of its design from the magazine at Fort Leavenworth. Photographs of the two illustrate the striking similarity between them.

By October 1843, Swords had built the stone foundation for the structure; and a year later he said that the "fire and ball proof magazine has been finished except for the tinning of the roof." [10] Captain Graham, the post commander, wrote that the walls of the octagonal building were made of brick. He also referred to the "laying of the floor," but did not disclose the kind of material (stone, brick, wood, etc.) that would compose the floor. [11]

When the Adjutant General, Roger Jones, learned about the cost of constructing Fort Scott and the cost of the magazine in particular, he wrote the department commander, Col. S. W. Kearny, asking, "Does not this report show that the buildings being erected are too costly—and more permanent, perhaps, than necessary. Why for ex[ample] build the magazine with brick and cover it with tin?" [12] It was a pertinent question, for Fort Scott could not foresee any chance of its being attacked by hostiles. But the thick walls of the magazine had already been built. Swords reported in 1845 that the magazine was finished. [13]

Although it was a handsome structure, having a white domed roof and giving the appearance of being as solid as Gibraltar, the Army could not foresee much civilian use for the building. The 1855 sale advertisement listed the magazine simply by name, without any description. It is not known if anyone purchased the structure and, if so, to what use it may have been put.

During the Civil War, the Army again rented the building, presumably for its original purpose. In 1868, much to the sorrow of the local editor, the magazine disappeared from the parade ground:

The magazine, a very pretty little octagon brick building with thick walls and heavy doors, has been torn down and the material used in other buildings. It may have been more profitable to do this; but we cannot help thinking such things should be left to remind the pioneer of old scenes. [14]

Today no visible trace of the magazine may be found on the old parade ground.

Parade Ground

The center of post functions, the 350-foot square parade ground continued to serve as the first park for the young city of Fort Scott. In Army days it contained the well, flag pole site, and magazine. The troops laid out two paths that formed a cross, meeting each other at right angles at the well. After the soldiers left, Fort Scott's first citizen, Hiero Wilson, renamed the parade Carroll Plaza, after one of Maryland's signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The Army planted a number of trees on the parade ground, apparently quite soon after the fort was established. In 1870, an ex-soldier described that in 1843 he was a member of the party that "went over to 'Squire Redfield's and procured locust trees, and set them out in the Plaza." Many of them were still growing when this sergeant visited, "though quite a number have died for want of proper care and attention." [15] Another visitor to Fort Scott wrote in 1858 that the parade ground was "a fine Plaza . . . planted with trees which are of probably eighteen years growth." [16]

In 1859, the paper argued that a fence should be erected around the parade "in order to preserve the grass and the fine growth of trees upon the same." [17] The fence was built before the Civil War, but it apparently did not suffice to protect all the trees. On the eve of the war, the city council directed the planting of additional trees. [18] Further damage was done during the looting by Union soldiers in the fall of 1861, "Our streets are littered with filth and rubbish; trees torn down, the Plaza fence is going to decay, and desolation prevails generally." The reporter added, "The record of last September will never be forgotten." [19]

As Sergeant Zeal observed, some of the original trees survived the war. Although the newspaper now felt that more trees could be planted, and some may have been, it decided that the trees and grass on the parade ground were in much better condition than on other public squares in the town. [20]

The 1871 lithograph of the town shows a row of trees around the parade ground, with a second smaller rectangle of trees within it. No trees are shown directly in front of any of the structures facing on the parade. Whether this condition reflects actual fact or artistic license is unknown. Still one other visitor to town, in 1871, wrote that the "large trees standing within the court . . . give signs of having been planted many years before." [21]

3. Market Street foreground. Hospital, HS 8, in center. End of infantry barracks, HS 7, is tallest structure extreme left. Post headquarters, HS 11, is beyond tree in upper left. To its right is Officers Quarters No. 1. 1863.

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2009