The Drum Barracks Civil War Museum is housed in one of two remaining structures of a once thriving 22 building, 60 acre military post. The front side of the building would have faced 16 acres of parade and drill grounds. The Junior Officers’ Quarters has two separate entrances and was originally built as a duplex with no doors connecting the two halves; interior doors were added at a later date.
Each of the barracks buildings held a company of soldiers, which consisted of approximately 100 men. As many as 7,000 Union troops passed through Drum Barracks between 1861 and 1871.
Once the building was closed as a military facility, the 60 acres which made up the Drum Barracks were returned to original donors Phineas Banning and Benjamin D. Wilson. Later that year the buildings were offered for sale at a government auction. Banning and Wilson purchased most of them. Other buyers had to move their purchases as they bought only the building, not the land. The total price for all was $3,627.
On August 31, 1873 The Los Angeles Star reported Wilson’s gift of “10 acres of land; an elegant 2-story building which cost $25,000 and one large building, cost $5-6,000, adapted for boarding house; for educational purposes donated to the Los Angeles Conference of Methodists." Wilson College, the first coeducational college west of the Mississippi, opened in early 1874. The school, although a success, closed a few years later for the Methodist Church’s plan for a larger school on 348 acres of donated land closer to Los Angeles. The school opened in October 1880 – and eventually became known as the University of Southern California.
Some of the buildings of the Drum Barracks soon became private residences. The land the barracks once occupied became desirable as residential property, was subdivided and sold off. Eventually most of the buildings were abandoned and torn down. The Junior, or Unaccompanied, Officers’ Quarters was used as a public school in the early 1900s among other things.
A bronze plaque was installed in a dedication ceremony by the Native Daughters of the Golden West on October 2, 1927. A large bronze marker notes the building's status as a California Historical Monument. A smaller plaque marks the Drum Barracks as a Los Angeles Historical Landmark. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
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