Barracks and Buffaloes
Fort George Wright Tour
The 24th Infantry regiment contained the famous all-black "Buffalo Soldiers" who had fought bravely in the capture of San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War. The regiment had endured many hardships. Only 24 of the 456 men of the regiment had not contracted Yellow Fever, and over 30 had died from it. When 107 tired men of the 24th arrived in Spokane in the spring of 1899 after a long train ride from Utah, they may have thought their troubles were over, but it was not to be. The citizens of Spokane were shocked that the first troops stationed at the base were African-American. Protests were made to the War Department to have the men shipped elsewhere. After a year of tension, and despite the exemplarity behavior of the troops themselves, the 24th Infantry was sent to the Philippines. When African-American soldiers of the 25th Infantry arrived in 1908, the population was less interested in the fort, and less inclined to stir up racial discontent. Some of the men even formed a successful minstrel band which played in Spokane to delighted audiences. Black soldiers of the 25th Infantry were present in 1909 and 1911 when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Fort.
When the first structures were completed on the grounds of Fort George Wright in 1899, only officers were given permanent housing. It was not until the completion of these "Double Barracks" structures on November 28, 1906 that the common soldier had a solid roof over his head at night. Costing $66,914 these two-story red brick buildings housed veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. Their particular style of long verandas and white pillars can be found on many military bases across the American West.
During WWII, the buildings were used as part of a convalescent center for the Army Air Corps. Wounded veterans were nursed back to health in the barracks. After the war some of the buildings fell into disuse, with the base primarily being used to house non-commissioned officers from Fairchild Air Force Base.
Two of the "Double Barracks" structures are still in use on the grounds. After the fort was sold in 1960 to the Sisters of the Holy Name College, after heavy repair and renovation, the barracks were used as housing. In 1990 the Mukogawa Women's University opened up a branch campus on the spot, and converted the double barracks into dormitories.