The gazebo and courtyard in the fort
The f\Fort is a place where history can be found within every adobe mud brick on site. A place filled with thousands of memories pertaining to the land of the free. This is the place where many people took their first breath as well as their last. This place is an open treasure chest waiting to be explored.
The Fort is located on the northwest side of Taft at 10th and Ash Streets. It was completely built on May 22, 1940, by the hands of 83 workmen. It was modeled after the well-known Sutter’s Fort which can be found in Sacramento, California. The difference is that the Fort in Taft is a bit larger than Sutter’s Fort.
From the time it was built, it was used to the benefit of the community. In 1940 the Fort’s south wing was used as the county hospital until 1951 when the Westside Hospital was built. It was later turned into a clinic where many children received their polio vaccines. The fort was also used as a housing development for federal, state, and county offices around the same time.
When World War II came along the Fort was used as the local draft board office. Here, local men received their call-up notices to serve their country as well as their discharge notices. Taft shared its fields with the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. These fields are known as the Gardner Army Airfield where many pilots learned how to fly the aircraft.
A National Guard unit was set up at the Fort during the Korean War. Here soldiers used the Fort’s back parking lot as a place for their drills. The Fort was also used to house special arms and vehicles.
The Fort was eventually declared unsafe in 1980 because an earthquake catastrophe, and all county offices were moved to different locations. The culprit, large cracks on the outside of the adobe walls. The fort was left vacant for many years after being a busy hotspot for the community of Taft. It was then recognized as a State Historic Landmark and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 22, 1981. This was all done thanks to assemblyman Trice Harvey who put in a lot of effort to save the Fort from being demolished to rubble.
In 1985, the Fort was given to the West Kern Oil Museum and in December 1992 The Fort Preservation Society was formed. The society became the new owners of the Fort. They strive to preserve the historical beauty of the Fort. The Fort is a non-profit organization which is open to the public all week long from 8:00am-8:00pm. It depends on grants, “Friends of The Fort” memberships, donations, fundraisers, office rentals etc. People can reserve the Fort for special events such as weddings and meetings. Anyone interested in doing so can contact Edith Laurin at (661) 765-7371.