OPEN Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
The Fort Whipple Museum served as a tactical base for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars of 1864 to 1886, where it became one of the key centers for military presence in the Arizona Territory.
A few decades later, Whipple became one of the military’s largest hospitals for the treatment of respiratory ailments, and continues today serving veterans as a VA medical facility.
On the grounds of the Bob Stump Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Fort Whipple Museum serves as a reminder of the wild, wild West, and as a chronicler of days past to modern medical facility. If you are an historic building enthusiast, you will enjoy touring the vintage 1909 military officer’s quarters for its architectural interest.
If you are piqued by the history of military medicine, the Museum’s exhibits feature medical instruments of the late-1800s, and the treatment programs of World War I veterans suffering from tuberculosis or respiratory recovery from mustard and chlorine gas warfare.
If your curiosity is vintage Army weaponry, Buffalo Soldiers, military maps, photographs and memoirs written by those stationed at this outpost, you’re in for a “Frontier Adventure.”
The fort was named for Lt. Amiel W. Whipple, who led a military expedition into the area in 1853-54 and established the first access routes to nearby gold fields. From protecting frontier settlers to serving veterans, the sesquicentenary mission of Fort Whipple has been to protect and serve. The Museum provides a fascinating time-capsule of its transition spanning 150-plus years and its positioning in the community where the formation of the Territorial government began.
For decades, Fort Whipple and its company of infantrymen and cavalrymen were protecting the Territorial Capital of Prescott, the nearby gold fields, and the early settlers of the frontier. At one time, it was the headquarters for the Military Department of Arizona, numbering more than 20 Army posts, and was the tactical headquarters for one-fifth of the entire U.S. Army.
After the cessation of hostilities with the indigenous populations, the military considered its closure, but the United States entered a war with Spain (1898). Whipple became a mobilization point for a famous company of cavalry – the Rough Riders. Shortly thereafter, the War Department expanded the site and Fort Whipple was re-activated as a U.S. Army Hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis and respiratory ailments.
By the mid-1920s, Whipple was the fourth largest disabled Veteran’s Hospital in the United States. From taking lives in war-time to saving lives in peacetime, Fort Whipple and its resident Museum remain a fascinating “Frontier Adventure” site.
Fort Whipple Museum is located on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center grounds off AZ-Hwy 89 in Prescott, just north of the intersection with AZ-Hwy 69. Hours are Thursday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed federal holidays). Admission is free, and donations are accepted. Self-guided.