For almost 200 years, the U.S. Army was a good steward of Fort Monroe, but the transition to its new civilian use requires intensive planning to ensure that the fort is carefully preserved and skillfully adapted. The Fort Monroe Authority is leading the way. On November 1, 2011, President Barack Obama named the fort a National Monument – a key strategy to preserve the fortress with the National Park Service.
Fort Monroe has long been recognized for its military heritage associated with Robert E. Lee (who helped build the fort) and Jefferson Davis (who was imprisoned there following the war). But the fort has an underappreciated heritage related to the origins and ending of slavery in America. In 1619, the first slave ship to arrive in the English-speaking New World deposited its cargo of enslaved human beings where Fort Monroe now stands. In 1861, as the Civil War raged, Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend – enslaved African Americans – sought protection at Fort Monroe, a Union stronghold. Union General Benjamin Butler declared them “contraband” of war. As word spread of the freedom seekers at Fort Monroe, more than 500,000 enslaved people followed in the footsteps of Mallory, Baker, and Townsend, leading to one of our nation’s most extraordinary – and until now, overlooked – chapters, and heralding the end of slavery in America.
- Prepare and implement detailed plans for conserving Fort Monroe’s outstanding scenic, natural, architectural, and cultural assets.
- Encourage sustainable economic development strategies so that Fort Monroe remains a vital community where people live, work, and visit.
Written by National Trust Staff
Excerpted from: WTOP.com
The U.S. Army is seeking about $23 million from Virginia for two parcels at Fort Monroe. Under a proposed deal, the state would spend that amount on infrastructure projects near Army facilities. The state would have seven years to complete the projects, which would improve the Army facilities and the surrounding community.
Written by Jessica Pumphrey, Team Member
As we prepare for the long Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to share a fun activity for you and your family to enjoy. On Saturday, May 24 the Fort Monroe Authority and The Contraband Historical Society will host the 153rd anniversary of the “Contraband Decision” at Cannon Park. This daylong celebration is in honor of the three men who freed themselves by escaping to Fort Monroe on May 23, 1861 and asking General Benjamin Butler to allow them to stay at the fort. On May 24, 1861 General Butler agreed to allow them to stay as so-called “contraband of war” at Fort Monroe and work for their freedom. Their courage inspired other enslaved African-Americans to seek freedom behind Union lines. By the end of the Civil War some 10,000 people found freedom by way of Fort Monroe.
We encourage all those in the area to come out and enjoy this important day in our American history. Events include living history tours, children’s activities at the Casemate museum, dramatic readings, and more!
For more information, visit the Fort Monroe Authority website.
Today, is a great day for Fort Monroe! Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has approved the Fort Monroe Authority’s master plan to restore and revitalize historic Fort Monroe. The plan, which was developed by renowned international design firm Sasaki & Associates, will preserve key historic structures, conserve open space and ensure public accessibility.
Join us in thanking Governor McDonnell for his leadership in approving the Fort Monroe Authority’s master plan, a key step to ensuring that we are able to protect and properly interpret Fort Monroe as one of our nation’s major landmarks in African-American heritage. The fort’s restoration honors our past and opens doors for a dynamic new future at this iconic historic place.
Last week, Governor Bob McDonnell presented his proposed FY 2015/16 biennial budget to the General Assembly, with a projected $12.9 million for Fort Monroe restoration and revitalization. The budget also authorizes $22.5 million in bonds to be issued to the Fort Monroe Authority specifically to assist with necessary repairs of historic buildings at Fort Monroe.
Governor McDonnell’s financial support is the first of many important steps in securing sustainability at Fort Monroe. In addition to this commitment, we hope Governor McDonnell will approve the FMA’s master plan, which will create a self-sustaining community at Fort Monroe. This plan strikes a reasonable balance between historic preservation and compatible change, and we support it fully.
Please join us in urging Governor McDonnell’s approval of the Fort Monroe Authority’s master plan. Let’s secure a future for the fort that is as rich as its past.
The Fort Monroe Authority has achieved an important milestone. On October 24, 2013, the Authority’s Board of Trustees approved the master plan prepared by Sasaki Associates. Now the master plan goes to Richmond for Governor McDonnell’s final approval. Click here to review Sasaki’s presentation to the Board of Trustees.
Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, wrote a strong letter supporting approval of the master plan. Ms. Kilpatrick has been an essential leader in the 8-year effort to preserve and protect historic Fort Monroe following the Army’s decision to vacate the military post. Her letter explains the layers of preservation-based protections now in place for historic resources at Fort Monroe. Click here to review the programmatic agreement, memorandum of understanding, and design standards which protect Fort Monroe.
The National Trust supported approval of the Authority’s master plan. Our letter and testimony during the October 24 public meeting noted the importance of moving forward to rehabilitate and utilize the 180 historic structures within the National Historic Landmark site.
On September 26, 2013, the Planning Advisory Group to the Fort Monroe Authority voted to recommend approval of the draft Master Plan for the re-development of Fort Monroe. The National Trust participated in this important public meeting and provided comments that urged the Fort Monroe Authority to resolve outstanding issues surrounding the master plan in order to finalize and approve the plan.
For eight years, the National Trust has been committed to advising key decision makers on the importance of protecting the historic resources at Fort Monroe and to ensuring that any new development there will be strictly limited and compatible with the fort’s historic character. It is our mission to see that Fort Monroe becomes a vibrant and self-sustaining new community. That’s the best way to preserve Fort Monroe for the future. And, we believe that the draft Master Plan is on the right track.
So, what happens next?
Up next, the draft Master Plan will be reviewed by the Fort Monroe Authority’s Finance Committee on October 10. This committee is focused on ensuring that Fort Monroe achieves economic independence. We will continue to keep you updated on the master plan as it moves toward final approval by the Fort Monroe Authority and, ultimately, the Governor of Virginia.
Written by Rob Nieweg, Project Manager
The Fort Monroe Authority is deep in the process of preparing a new master plan for Fort Monroe. Ultimately, the Authority’s master plan will guide the future reuse of 245 acres and many historic structures at Fort Monroe. (The National Park Service has jurisdiction over the remaining 325 acres, which make up the Fort Monroe National Monument.)
Throughout this work, the National Trust has maintained regular contact with the Fort Monroe Authority, National Park Service, and a set of dedicated non-governmental groups interested in the future of Freedom’s Fortress. The National Trust continues to advocate for preservation through regular correspondence, conference calls, and public meetings.
In late September 2012, Sasaki Associates released a set of five alternative concepts for public review: http://www.sasaki.com/Open/CommunityMeeting_Sept_2012.pdf. In response, the National Trust sent a detailed comment letter to the Fort Monroe Authority. Our letter commends the Fort Monroe Authority for the strong emphasis on adapting each of the Fort’s historic structures for productive new uses. That is one critical measure of success.
The National Trust also published an op-ed in the Daily Press about Sasaki’s progress on the Fort Monroe master plan. Our op-ed welcomed the concept for a Crescent Park that would secure a buffer zone around the moat and fortress. We also urged interested members of the public to share their ideas at the Fort Monroe Master Plan interactive website, another way to be heard on this critical preservation issue: http://ideas.fmauthority.com/
My next update will address the new material released by Sasaki in March 2013.
Written by Rob Nieweg, Project Manager
Earlier this year, the Fort Monroe Authority hired Sasaki Associates, Inc. to prepare a master plan for the portion of Fort Monroe that is under the Authority’s jurisdiction. The Fort Monroe Authority’s area of the 570-acre historic site includes some of the fortress’s most important historic resources.
In a nutshell, Sasaki Associates is a Boston-based, interdisciplinary planning and design firm. Sasaki’s high-profile projects stretch around the world, including planning for historic places like the Charleston, South Carolina waterfront and the Presidio of San Francisco, as well as master planning for many university campuses, from the University of Maine to Portland State University. Sasaki was selected by the Fort Monroe Authority on the recommendation of a panel that included the grassroots Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.
Since Sasaki was hired, the firm was awarded the American Planning Association’s National Planning Excellence Award for a Planning Firm. The American Planning Association wrote: “Sakaki Associates, Inc. has a history of regenerating communities with its unique collaboration of engineers, architects, and planners. … The firm’s planning process is based on the value of strong ideas, critical inquiry and exploration, and board public engagement.”
To inform its work at Fort Monroe, Sasaki is collecting public input about the future of Fort Monroe online. Take a moment to share your opinions on their interactive website.
Written by Rob Nieweg, Project Manager
In November 2011, President Obama created a new National Monument at Fort Monroe. Today, thanks to the president, 325 acres of the historic site are the responsibility of the National Park Service, while the remaining 245 acres (and most of the historic structures) are the responsibility of the Fort Monroe Authority. The National Trust and its membership campaigned for President Obama’s National Monument proclamation, and we strongly support the innovative partnership forming between the Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service to preserve this important place.
Now, the National Park Service is preparing a “foundation document,” a new long-term plan to guide their management of the National Monument. To engage the interested public, the National Park Service hosted an open house in April 2012 and has solicited public comments about Fort Monroe. In May 2012, they asked:
- What is most important about the Fort Monroe National Monument?
- What are the greatest threats to the Fort Monroe National Monument?
- How have you used Fort Monroe in the past? What uses would you like to see at Fort Monroe?
- What should the American people know about Fort Monroe? What are its most important stories?
Click here to read the National Trust’s answers. A draft foundation document will likely be ready for public review and comment in early winter 2013. We’re watching closely and asking for new opportunities to consult with the National Park Service as the agency prepares its draft.
What’s at stake? The National Park Service’s plan is critical to the future of the National Monument, of course, but the foundation document will also help shape many key aspects of the Fort Monroe Authority’s own master plan. All of this land-use planning is interconnected and very political. For example, on August 8, 2012, the Hampton City Council weighed in by unanimously resolving to only support new development in the controversial Wherry Quarter that is “complementary to the National Park Service plans” for the National Monument. The Wherry Quarter is located within the Fort Monroe Authority's jurisdiction, and some have argued that no development should be permitted there.
Click here for press coverage of the city council’s resolution, which sends an important message to both the National Park Service and the Fort Monroe Authority. This resolution, which seems to support some level of new development in the Wherry Quarter for “tourism, hospitality, recreation, and open space concepts,” also begins to answer the much-debated question of what sort of new development, if any, would be considered appropriate within the Wherry Quarter.
Written by Robert Nieweg, Project Manager
The National Trust and many others envision Fort Monroe as an economically self-sustaining and well-preserved historic place where people will be welcome to live, learn, work, and visit – a vital, new community utilizing a storied historic site. That’s our vision for this public place.
For seven years, the National Trust has pressed decision makers to carefully protect historic resources and to strictly limit new development at Fort Monroe. Some parts of Fort Monroe, like the Historic Village zone, are not suited for much in the way of new development. Instead, we’ve urged planners to look first to the North Gate area, a largely undeveloped zone of storage buildings and parking lots, for potential space to create first-rate new architecture which is compatible with Fort Monroe’s historic character. See here for our April 2012 Daily Press op-ed, “A Vision for Fort Monroe.”
However, the first priority at Fort Monroe must be to repurpose each of the 180 historic structures within the 570-acre National Historic Landmark district. Virtually all of the historic structures are under the stewardship of the Commonwealth’s Fort Monroe Authority, and are not part of the National Park Service’s 325-acre National Monument, which was designated by President Obama in November 2011. To its credit, the Authority is making progress on this front, and approximately 55% of rentable housing already is leased for new uses.
On August 3, 2012, The Virginian-Pilot published the National Trust’s new opinion piece, “The Economic Power of Preservation.” See here for the full text. As you’ll see, the National Trust’s focus is on a pair of time-tested preservation tools – the federal and Virginia historic rehabilitation tax credits. In my experience, tax credit work saves historic places. And, as our op-ed observes, the 180 historic structures should be the “building blocks of a new future for Fort Monroe.” Many of the fort’s historic buildings would be wonderful candidates for rehabilitation and adaptive reuse incentivized by the tax credits. That means careful change to meet modern needs.
Today, the onus is on Sasaki Associates, the Authority’s consultant, to propose a draft master plan for Fort Monroe’s future. The federal and state historic tax credits are just one way to realize the vision and implement the master plan, but they are indispensable tools.
Written by Rob Nieweg, Project Manager
I’m Rob Nieweg, director of the National Trust’s Washington Field Office. For seven years, I’ve served as the National Trust’s project manager for our marathon run of advocacy to save Fort Monroe. I’ll be providing periodic updates here regarding our ongoing work for Fort Monroe, which is well loved for its stone bastion and tidal moat, waterfront open space, tree-lined village of redbrick barracks, and its evocative connections to American heritage.
Here’s the challenge in a nutshell: Fort Monroe has lost its original military purpose due to a 2005 decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and therefore must find productive new civilian uses in order to survive. Fort Monroe is a public place, and there has been a passionate public debate about its future, all driven by concerns about potential over-development and the loss of historic character and natural beauty.
Today, the fate of Fort Monroe is being determined through two master planning processes conducted by the Fort Monroe Authority and National Park Service. The Authority and the National Park Service share stewardship responsibility for the 570-acre historic site, the majority of which was designated as a National Monument by President Obama in November 2011.
The National Trust is actively engaged in the nitty gritty of both planning exercises, and we’ve recommended that a successful plan for Fort Monroe must:
- Preserve historic structures by securing productive new uses for each historic building.
- Conserve open space and ensure public accessibility.
- Strictly limit new construction to protect the historic character and natural beauty of Fort Monroe.
- Create new opportunities to tell the full stories of Fort Monroe, including its African American heritage.
- Establish a vibrant and economically self-sustaining new community where people are welcomed to live, work, and visit.
William E. Lowry on December 14, 2012
I was a member of the CONARC Band at Ft. Monroe from c. 1970 to 1972. I played French Horn and I'm trying to see if there might be photos of the band at that time. Any information you might share would be most welcome. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elisa on October 13, 2012
My husband and I visited Fort Monroe this afternoon. I also think it's a treasure that has fortunately been declared a national monument. I see a lot of potential to develop it into a national park in the future as it has so many ammenities. I too believe the land can be utilized for many uses for the public appreciation of history as well as outdoor recreation.
Emma on September 25, 2012
I love Fort Monroe, it is my favorite place to walk, jog, handout with my grandsons and enjoy the outdoor concerts. I am always seeing something amazing there, such as dolphins, giant turtles, super large tankers, submarines, birds feeding and just the beauty of it. I would love to see a more extensive area of upscale hotels
Rob Nieweg, Arlington, VA on June 09, 2012
When I was a boy, my grandfather and I would sit along the seawall to watch oceangoing vessels pass Fort Monroe. He was a maritime engineer who had sailed around the world. We now know that he made port in Norfolk in January 1915 on the Membland, a cargo ship torpedoed in February 1915 on the North Sea. Today, I lead the National Trust team that is working, with many partners, to preserve the National Historic Landmark. I’ve met many people with personal connections to the fortress, including those descended from the ten thousand women, men, and children who emancipated themselves at Fort Monroe. Everyone should visit.
Audrey P. Davis, Washington, DC on June 08, 2012
As a child, my father would drive to Fort Monroe and tell me about my great, great, grandfather William Roscoe Davis. In 1861, William R. Davis was one of the first contrabands to arrive at Fort Monroe, and he became superintendent of Contrabands. Fort Monroe is a beautiful site, and a place to contemplate issues regarding freedom, race and identity. My job involves preserving a contraband site in Alexandria, Va. My Contraband heritage inspires me daily.