Military housing finds new life with condominium development and prison camp


It occupies 114 acres of land below Arrowhead Road, accessible from Selfridge Drive.

For a short time, the family of 5th District Councilor Janet Kennedy made their home in Capehart. Her late father, William Arnold Kennedy, a Korean War veteran, served in the Air Force. She said it was this service that brought her family and many other people of color to Duluth.

“We have a lot of families of African descent who are here just for this reason. They were military migrants, ”Kennedy said. “There was a feeling of community. We were all fairly connected through the air base.

This photo of an Air Force plane flying over Duluth was taken in the 1960s or 1970s. (File / News Tribune)

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When the Air Force closed its base in Duluth in 1982, Capehart emptied itself. The closure of the base, combined with the deactivation of a local computer air defense operation, cut an estimated 1,375 jobs and dealt an economic blow to the community at a time when it was already reeling from the US decision. Steel Corp. to close its factory in Gary-New Duluth. The Duluth base had an annual payroll of around $ 30 million.

In “Locating Air Force Base Sites: History’s Legacy,” Frederick J. Shaw wrote that Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara “has emphasized efficiency and waste reduction in the defense establishment. », During his tenure from 1961 to 1968.

“Coupled with changing defense needs based on technological developments in weapon systems and a new strategic direction under President John F. Kennedy, this emphasis has led to massive base closures not seen since the end of the United States. WWII, ”Shaw noted. From 1961 to 1972, the number of US Air Force installations in the continental United States increased from 152 to 112.

Duluth Base survived these cuts, but was one of the few additional Air Force bases to close in the 1980s, joining the ranks of Fort Lee, Va. And Hancock Field, New York.

Despite the departure of the US Air Force, the 148th Air National Guard Fighter Wing maintained a military presence in Duluth.

After the base closed, the University of Minnesota Duluth briefly converted Capehart into student housing, but in 1986 the school was outbid by a New Hampshire businessman, who offered $ 3.9 million to purchase the property from the General Service Administration of the United States government.

After beautifying the premises, the new owner took over Capehart in 1989 as Aspenwood, one of the city’s first condominium projects.

The barracks off US Highway 53 that previously housed around 100 airmen in Duluth also found new life in 1983, when the facility was converted to a minimum security federal prison camp.

Duluth Federal Correctional Camp.  (Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons)

Duluth Federal Correctional Camp. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons)

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