By Worcester P. Bong


If you’ve visited the Bob Stump VA Medical Center campus in Prescott, Arizona, one building (Building 11) stands out among the white buildings around it. It serves as a reminder that the medical center’s campus sits on the grounds of the former Fort Whipple, a US Army post that was established at this site in May of 1864.  Building 11, its exterior painted light yellow with dark green trim, is located along the row of former Officer’s Quarters. Built between 1903 and 1908 and designated as one of six Lieutenant’s Quarters along Officer’s Row when built, it’s home to the Fort Whipple Museum. 


This month, the Fort Whipple Museum will be celebrating its 20th year since opening to the public.  The idea of a museum to showcase the history of Fort Whipple originated in 1998, when the Sharlot Hall Museum (a local historical museum) and the VA Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona, developed a partnership to establish a Fort Whipple Interpretive Center (now called the Fort Whipple Museum).  At that time, Mr. Richard Sims, Executive Director at the Sharlot Hall Museum, and Ms. Patricia McKlem, Medical Center Director of the VA Medical Center, were instrumental in realizing the concept of a museum about the fort’s history located on the medical center’s campus. The principal Sharlot Hall Museum staff involved in the project were George Fuller, Exhibit Designer, and Mick Woodcock, Historian/Chief Curator. Ole Thomsen at the medical center served as the project director. Mr. Thomsen had a key role in submitting a grant proposal to the Arizona Humanities Council. Grant funds were approved, which led to the restoration of the exterior and interior of Building 11 as the home of the Fort Whipple Museum.


During the final phases prior to the museum’s opening on May 21, 2004, several Sharlot Hall Museum employees contributed to the exhibit installations on the first and second floors. The building’s interior has high ceilings, light yellow walls, two large fireplaces built using Italian tile, and maple and oak floors, creating a historic ambience for the museum’s displays. A variety of artifacts on display includes items used in gold prospecting, medical instruments from the Civil War period, a replica of General George Crook’s desk and chair, uniforms, and a wooden wheelchair used in the 1920s. One room is dedicated to Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s Troop B of the 10th US Cavalry, known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”. Panels in each room outline distinct periods in the fort’s history. Using a combination of historical photographs, graphics and text, these panels explain the fort’s use during Arizona’s territorial years, then as a US Army Hospital, and finally its transition to a Veterans Administration medical center complex, known today as the Northern Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System.


The May 23, 2004, edition of The Daily Courier reported that the opening day of activities was well attended. Volunteers from the Blue Rose History Theater dressed in period costumes greeted visitors as part of the living history element of opening day. Richard Sims and Ms. Deborah Thompson, the succeeding Medical Center Director, shared ribbon-cutting duties.  The museum was temporarily closed for a long period due to the pandemic and reopened on May 3, 2024. Currently, the museum is open on Fridays only (closed on holidays) from 10 am to 4 pm. Expanding the museum’s hours to more days per week is in the planning stage.


A 20th anniversary celebration of the museum’s original opening will be held at Fort Whipple Museum on Friday, May 17, 2024, between noon and 2 pm, with keynote speakers at 1pm.


“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to  Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests.