Established by President Grant in 1871, the 7,500-acre Fort Apache Reservation is a site of architectural significance imbued with historical importance, making its conservation of paramount importance. The fort served as operations base from which the U.S. Army, with the help of White Mountain Apache scouts, carried out assaults against “renegade” Apache bands in an effort to “settle” the West. Unlike many other military forts in Arizona, which were abandoned at various times, Fort Apache remained in use and under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. Following the departure of the U.S. Army in 1922, the fort reopened in 1930 as the headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The White Mountain Apache Tribe established a cultural center at the site in 1969, repurposing many of the buildings. The 288-acre Fort Apache Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, coinciding with the dedication of the museum, but unfortunately a fire destroyed the museum and its collection in 1985. Presently, there are more than 30 buildings at the fort and it is one of Arizona’s most popular tourist destinations.
A renewal of spirit and opportunity for the White Mountain Apache Tribe
Despite the fort’s significance, many of its buildings fell into ruin, prompting the site’s inclusion on the 1998 World Monuments Watch. The listing bolstered the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s efforts to prompt the U.S. Department of the Interior to bring the buildings into compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards. We provided matching funds for Fort Apache’s restoration efforts, including the creation of a master plan. In 1960 the U.S. Congress affirmed the historical significance and economic potential of Fort Apache; however, conservation at the site has had an uneven history. The renewal of Fort Apache was seen as a tool to increase tourism, but even more so, as a renewal of spirit and opportunity for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.