WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 4, 2011) -- President Barack
Obama Tuesday signed a proclamation designating historic Fort
Monroe, Va., as a national monument under the National Park Service.
the plan, the National Park Service will operate 57 percent of the
installation's land, including a moat-encircled fortress with
casemate walls and gun batteries along Chesapeake Bay. Other
buildings on the 565 acres will be leased as warehouses, offices or
shops while 174 housing units on post will be rented to both
military and civilian families.
It's all part of the reuse
plan designed by the Fort Monroe Authority, a state of Virginia
entity designated to develop the property under 2005 Base
Realignment and Closure legislation.
"Today isn't just about
preserving a national landmark, it's about helping to create jobs
and grow the local economy," said the president as he signed the
proclamation designating Fort Monroe a national monument.
U.S. national monuments include the Statue of Liberty, Mount
Rushmore, Fort Sumter and dozens of other historic landmarks.
Fort Monroe was built in 1819, after the British sailed up
Chesapeake Bay and burned the nation's capitol during the War of
1812. The unique seven-sided casemate fortress was designed by Gen.
Simon Bernard, once aide to Napoleon Bonaparte. Lt. Robert E. Lee
was among the young engineers who eventually worked on the project
and personally supervised construction of the moat.
the fort played a prominent part in the Civil War, helping keep much
of the coast under Union control. President Abraham Lincoln
personally launched the Union's attack on Norfolk from inside Fort
During the course of the war, more than
10,000 escaped slaves were temporarily sheltered on Fort Monroe, and
it became the site of a Freeman's Cemetery.
"The stories of
Fort Monroe National Monument are as diverse as the nation itself,"
said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, as he
appointed 20-year Park Service veteran Kirsten Talken-Spaulding as
superintendent of the new park.
Although the superintendent
assumes her responsibilities immediately, typically it takes up to
three years for such a national park to be fully functional, said an
official of the Fort Monroe authority.
The Fort Monroe
Authority is now running the installation, although the land has not
officially been handed over to the state of Virginia yet. The U.S.
Army Training and Doctrine Command vacated Fort Monroe prior to
Sept. 15 as required by BRAC, but the Army is still cleaning up the
property, according to a development authority official, who added
that she expects the land will be officially transferred in early
There are 170 historic buildings on Fort Monroe and the
post includes eight miles of waterfront, 3.2 miles of beaches on the
Chesapeake Bay and a 332-slip marina. It includes the Chamberlin
Hotel, an early coastal vacation destination, now being used
primarily as a senior citizens assisted living facility.
About 2.5 million square feet of warehouse and office space on Fort
Monroe include a building leased by the city of Hampton to be used
as a police academy.
The fort also includes the casemate
museum, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was held
prisoner after the Civil War. And it includes a number of preserved
coastal artillery batteries from the World War I era.
president designated Fort Monroe a national monument under authority
of the Antiquities Act of 1906. It was first used that year by
President Theodore Roosevelt to designate Devil's Tower in Wyoming
as the first national monument. Since then, the act has been used by
14 presidents to protect natural and historic lands such as the
Grand Canyon and Ellis Island.
By Gary Sheftick
Army News Service
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