FORT GIBSON — The Fort Gibson Historic Site was recently awarded a $750,000 grant from the National Park Service (NPS) to help preserve the stone barracks at the former military site. It is the only project in Oklahoma to receive funding from the NPS in the latest round of Save America’s Treasures grants.
Fort Gibson was established in 1824 to protect the United States’ western border and further Westward expansion. It was occupied by military troops throughout the years before being abandoned in 1890.
“We are so grateful for granting agencies like NPS that help preserve our sites,” said Jennifer Frazee, director of the Fort Gibson Historic Site. “The barracks hold an incredibly rich history, from the people who constructed it and the purpose it was intended for, all the way to how folks adapted it to support the community in the years after statehood.”
The Oklahoma Historical Society has tried to repair the stone barracks but could only take a patchwork approach due to limited project funding. Money from the NPS will pay for the repairs needed to stabilize the building.
“I am very excited the Oklahoma Historical Society was awarded this monumental grant from the National Park Service. This grant will go a long way toward shoring up and restoring this important structure at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma’s oldest fort,” said Trait Thompson, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “Work to construct the barracks began in the 1840s but wasn’t completed until after the Civil War. Over the years, it has served not only as living quarters for the soldiers but also as a mess hall, workspace for the Dawes Commission, and a school for blind and deaf American Indian children. Restoration of the barracks will allow us to interpret its history for a new generation of Oklahomans.”
The Oklahoma Historical Society will use money from a $46 million Legacy Capital Fund passed by state lawmakers in 2022 to match the grant money dollar-for-dollar.
“Of course, being from Fort Gibson, I grew up with the knowledge of the pivotal role the fort played for our state and our nation during a time when many settlers were moving west, and peace was sought with many Native American tribes,” said State Rep. Chris Sneed, R-Fort Gibson. “I’m thrilled with the news of this grant from the National Park Service that will help us preserve our history. I think it is very telling that this is the only project in Oklahoma to receive funding from the NPS in the latest round of Save America’s Treasures grants. It speaks to both the continued importance of this historic site and the many lessons it can still offer us today.”
The $750,000 grant awarded to the Fort Gibson Historic Site is part of $25.7 million being distributed nationwide by the NPS, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as part of Save America’s Treasures grants from the Historic Preservation Fund.
“Today, we celebrate a significant milestone in preserving our nation’s history as the Fort Gibson Historic Site receives a generous $750,000 grant from the National Park Service,” said State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee. “This investment not only honors the legacy of those who came before us but also ensures that future generations can explore and learn from this remarkable landmark. Together, we forge a path toward a brighter future where the stories of Fort Gibson continue to inspire and educate. This grant is a testament to the enduring value of our shared heritage and the power of collaboration in safeguarding our cultural treasures.”
The Historic Preservation Fund has provided more than $2 billion in grants nationwide since 1977.
“These grants preserve and conserve nationally significant properties and collections to tell a more complete story of America and its people,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “Preserving these historic places and collections ensures the generations of today and tomorrow can enjoy and learn from the diverse stories across time and place in America’s history.”
The Fort Gibson Historic Site is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.