Heart Mountain Barrack in Bighorn Basin

Heart Mountain and Preservation Commission Seek Volunteers to Find Barracks in Park County

October 19, 2020

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and the Park County Historic Preservation Commission will host an online workshop on Sunday, November 1, to teach volunteers how to identify and document buildings from the World War II confinement site around Park County. The event will kick off a long term project to catalog all the surviving camp buildings in the county. The workshop will begin at 3 p.m. Participation is free, but space is limited and registration is required. 

During World War II, over 14,000 Japanese Americans were confined at Heart Mountain. Some 700 buildings were hastily constructed or moved to the site to create the camp. Those structures included 468 residential barracks, built to hold six families each. After the camp closed in 1945, the government sold many of the barracks and other buildings to locals and newly arrived homesteaders.

The Heart Mountain barracks are still in use around Park County today, as barns, shops, and even houses. By hosting this workshop, The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and the Park County Historic Preservation Commission hope to train a volunteer corps to identify every surviving camp building in the county. Workshop participants will hear firsthand about life in the barracks from former Heart Mountain incarceree Prentiss Uchida, discover their post-camp history with University of Wyoming American Studies Professor Emeritus Eric Sandeen, and learn how to identify them and assess their condition from members of the Historic Preservation Commission.

Heart Mountain executive director Dakota Russell said this project will shine a light on the continuing legacy of the camp in Wyoming. “A lot of people assume the camp is completely gone,” Russell said. “What they don’t realize is that much of it is still here, hidden in plain sight. This project will make those connections to the past much more visible.”

The workshop will be held online on Sunday, November 1 at 3 p.m. Participation in the workshop is free, but space will be limited. Volunteers wishing to participate can reserve a spot by visiting this link. Local residents who own a building they believe was from Heart Mountain can reach out to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation at info@heartmountain.org to have it included in the volunteer assessment project.

Photo: Lee and Jamie Bessler in front of their lamb shed made from the remains of a Heart Mountain barrack. Photo courtesy of Stan Honda.