On the ground where musket and cannon thundered 140 years earlier,
across the pathways where men marched off to five wars, stands
a place transformed today to meet the needs of tomorrow. Once
strategically set apart from Salt Lake City and viewed with dread,
Fort Douglas is now a global community - the place where athletes
from around the world will stay as they compete in the 2002 Olympic
Winter Games and Paralympic Games.
Chronicling the history behind the Olympic Village, "The
Spirit of Fort Douglas" premieres on KUED-7 Tuesday, February
5, at 9:00 p.m. The one-hour documentary was produced by Joe Prokop
of KUED Media Solutions and is narrated by Doug Fabrizio, host
of KUER-FM 90's "Radio West" public affairs program.
"'The Spirit of Fort Douglas' tells the story not only of
the Western military outpost, but the nation as a whole,"
says Prokop of his debut historical documentary. "The fort
really serves as a microcosm for understanding the cultural and
political narrative of the United States - from the western expansion
that drove Native Americans onto reservations to the late 20th-century
military downsizing that threatened local economies across the
Putting the story of Fort Douglas into a national context, the
program demonstrates how the post was important to the Union effort
when it was established at the outbreak of the Civil War. Later,
while America grappled with the struggle of race, stereotypes
played out on the Salt Lake City stage when the fort hosted 0an
African-American infantry unit.
After war broke out in Europe in 1914, the American public came
to fear alien enemies, and Fort Douglas became the primary internment
camp for suspicious German and Austro-Hungarian immigrants west
of the Mississippi. As the nation banded together for the cause
in the next world war, the fort would be a central place for military
recruitment and induction, sending young men and women off to
fight on the islands of the Pacific to the beaches at Normandy.
Throughout its many incarnations, Fort Douglas endured a tenuous
relationship with the local civilian community. "The Spirit
of Fort Douglas" documents the tension between members of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who settled the
Utah territory following years of religious persecution and the
"gentile" federal troops. The program explores how the
fort's founder, an Irish Catholic immigrant named Colonel Patrick
Edward Connor, was suspicious of Mormons and questioned their
loyalty to the Union. The Mormons, in turn, distrusted the intentions
of his federal troops, greeting them when with "neither cheers
nor jeers" as they marched down the Salt Lake City streets
before establishing a camp overlooking the valley.
The documentary captures the spirit of Fort Douglas through the
people who called it home. It features colorful interviews with
the "army brats" who grew up playing on the parade grounds,
along with the men and women who recall the hustle and bustle
of the fort during World War II.
"Well, there was something going on all the time. The band
used to set up on Soldier's Field and play concerts at noon for
all the people who worked in the offices around," says Margaret
Montgomery, who met her husband George, a Chief Warrant Officer
and director of the 364th Army Band, at Fort Douglas. "They
just provided so much entertainment. The best there was - like
Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, everybody all thrown together."
In 1991, the military career of Fort Douglas officially came
to an end as the flag was lowered and the University of Utah took
possession of 62 historic buildings and 51 acres of land. Taking
care to preserve the fort's heritage, the university created the
Heritage Commons student residence area that will also serve as
the official Athletes' Village during the 2002 Olympic Winter
Games and Paralympic Games. In both capacities, the residential
area will be a place of community, allowing people from different
places to come together and create the next chapter of history.
"Now we have this vitality of youth and an opportunity for
education and collaboration that will continue to go on here for
years, and will still serve the community as a place where they
can come and visit, learn the history of the Fort and experience
this unique environment," said Anne Racer, University of
Utah facilities planning director.
"KUED hopes viewers will learn something new about Fort
Douglas, which has both a fascinating history and a promising
future," says Larry S. Smith, general manager of KUED.
The program was made possible by the George S. and Dolores Doré
Eccles Foundation and the C. Comstock Clayton Foundation.