Thursday, October 20, 2011

President Obama Confirms Fort Monroe as the Newest National Monument

Photo Credit: Pete Souza, The White House.

On Tuesday November 1st, 2011 President Obama signed a proclamation confirming Fort Monroe as our newest National Monument.

Fort Monroe is located in Hampton, Virginia and boasts extremely well-preserved historic fabric including the largest moated, stone walled fort in North America. The site features a long and fascinating history. As President Obama outlined during his signing speech, Fort Monroe has played a remarkable role in the history of the United States. It was identified as a strategically important location by Captain John Smith in 1608 who declared it “an isle fit for a castle”. It was also the landing site of the first ships carrying Africans to the New World in 1619. During the Civil War, almost 250 years later, Fort Monroe became a refuge for slaves that were escaping from the South. Fort Monroe was consequently dubbed “Freedom’s Fortress”. This action helped pave the way for Abraham Lincoln’s signature of the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 2005, The United States military declared that it was vacating Fort Monroe, after almost 200 years of continuous use, as part of its Base Realignment and Closure process. In 2006, in preparation for the U.S. Army’s departure and the conversion of the fort to civilian use, Dover, Kohl & Partners was invited to help lead a design process to create a Fort Monroe Reuse Plan. The President’s proclamation, which paves the way for designation of approximately 325 of the fort’s acres as a National Park, is consistent with this vision. The plan envisions preservation of the fort’s historic areas including the walled fortress itself. Large tracts of open area are to become permanent public park facilities. Some limited opportunities for neighborhood-scale development are envisioned to help complete the fort’s historic built fabric in places where it is currently frayed at its edges.

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