Welcome to Historic Fort Benjamin Harrison
In 92 years as a military post, Fort Benjamin Harrison’s fate waxed and waned. Infantry regiments came and went. So did training camps, schools and even prisoners. It all started in 1903 when appropriations were authorized for the purchase of land to become a military reservation near Indianapolis, the hometown of the 23rd president of the United States. In 1906 the post was officially named Fort Benjamin Harrison in honor of the former president. The first soldiers arrived later that year, and between 1906 and 1910 the first flurry of development activity became the parade field known as Lawton Loop. Forty-eight structures from this original period remain and have been converted into beautiful homes and condominiums. The 400 maple trees that were planted surrounding the property are now mature trees that provide a beautiful setting for families living on the Loop.
For a time in the 30’s, Fort Benjamin Harrison served as a Civilian Conservation Corps camps and during World War II, it housed, at various times, German and Italian prisoners of war. It also briefly served as an Army disciplinary barracks.
Fort Benjamin Harrison saw its highest level of activity during World Wars 1 and II. During World War II it became the largest reception center in the United States and literally thousands of young draftees earned their first taste of Army life at Fort Benjamin Harrison. For a short period, from 1948 to 1950, the facility functioned as Benjamin Harrison Air Force Base. The 50’s saw another flurry of construction activity when both the Finance Center and Gates Lord Hall were constructed.
Through its history, scores of young soldiers were trained at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Army schools that operated at the base include the finance school, adjutant general school, chaplains’ school, defense information school, administrative school, recruiting and retention school, music school, community activities school, NCO Academy, computer science school, and physical fitness school.
The fortunes of Fort Benjamin Harrison were sealed in 1991 when the Base Closure and Realignment Commission identified it for closure. Thus began a new era as the planning for civilian reuse began. Enter the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority with a lot of help from the City of Lawrence, City of Indianapolis, and many political visionaries.
Today, the military maintains a strong presence at the former base. The Department of Defense retains an Army Reserve Center at Fort Harrison and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service continues its superior work in the Major General Emmett Bean Center, dubbed the “Home of the Military Dollar.”
In 2006, the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority, in partnership with the Department of Defense, United States Army, Defense Commissary Agency, and the Army Air Force Exchange Service constructed a new state of the art, PX/Commissary in 2007. Over 35,000 families from across the State of Indiana travel to this PX/Commissary on an annual basis to shop at this store. In March 2011, the Indiana National Guard Lawrence Armory opened its Readiness Center which serves as the headquarters for 4 units of the 76th Infantry Brigade.
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