National Monument Designation


A story awaits at Fort Monroe
The Virginian-Pilot
© November 6, 2011
By Barack Obama

As president, one of my responsibilities is to protect our national treasures so that our children and grandchildren can learn about and enjoy them.

Over the past century, my predecessors have helped preserve some of America’s most iconic landmarks – from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon. And on Tuesday, I continued that tradition by using my authority under the Antiquities Act to name Fort Monroe in Hampton a national monument, making it the newest member of our country’s great national park system.

Before it was deactivated, Fort Monroe was the third-oldest Army post in continuous active service and played an important role in some of the darkest and some of the most heroic moments in American history.

It was there that the first slave ships landed in the English colonies. And during the Civil War, almost 250 years later, a general’s decision to give escaped slaves refuge at Fort Monroe paved the way for President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

In September, Fort Monroe closed its doors as a military installation for the last time. But now, thanks to the support of the Hampton community – including Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park - and a bipartisan group of elected officials – including Gov. Bob McDonnell and Hampton Mayor Molly Ward – Americans will be able to appreciate Fort Monroe’s rich history for generations to come.

This success is a testament to what can be accomplished when citizens act in the best interests of their community, and leaders put the interests of the country ahead of political party.

This decision isn’t just about preserving a national landmark – it’s also about helping to create jobs and grow the local economy. Local officials estimate that restoring and reusing Fort Monroe could help create thousands of jobs and help bring millions of dollars a year to the Hampton community – just as other national parks, historic treasures and public lands do in communities across the country.

Steps like these won’t replace the bold action we need from Congress if we’re going to give our economy the boost it needs, but they will make a difference in communities like Hampton.

In the weeks ahead, I will continue to force Congress to vote on common-sense, bipartisan proposals that independent economists say will put Americans back to work. And until Congress decides to act, I’m going to keep doing everything I can on behalf of the American people.

As our country commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I’m proud to add Fort Monroe to the list of our treasured national parks.

I’m confident that the steps we’ve taken will benefit the Hampton community and the commonwealth of Virginia, and Michelle and I hope to bring Sasha and Malia down to visit soon so they can appreciate an important part of our history.

Barack Obama is president of the United States.



Fort Monroe’s First Park Director Hits the Ground Running


Kirsten Talken-Spaulding, superintendent of the new Fort Monroe National… (G. Chambers Williams III, Daily Press)


By G. Chambers Williams III, Special to the Daily Press

8:07 p.m. EDT, November 3, 2011
HAMPTON — As Kirsten Talken-Spaulding arrived to begin her duties as superintendent of the new Fort Monroe National Monument on Thursday, she greeted her first visitor, who she said had just one question.
“All she wanted to know was when we were going to put the arrowhead sign at the park entrance,” Talken-Spaulding said.
All U.S. national parks and monuments are identified by the National Park Service’s arrowhead symbol, and Fort Monroe will get its own sign soon, she said. But first things first.
“I’m the only staff we have right now, and we don’t even have a budget yet,” she said. “It’s going to take a while to get things going.”
The important issue has already been resolved, though, said Talken-Spaulding – getting the former Army base declared a national monument, which President Barack Obama did on Tuesday with a declaration under the federal Antiquities Act.
Talken-Spaulding, a Williamsburg native and 20-year Park Service veteran, was named superintendent on Wednesday.
She’s already been barraged by requests from people who want their National Park Service “passports” stamped with “Fort Monroe National Monument,” she said during a Thursday afternoon meeting with reporters in front of Building 17, also known as Lee’s Quarters.
Park gift shops nationwide sell the souvenir passports that, like real passports, have blank pages for stamps from places visited. While the real passports get country stamps, the park ones are meant to collect stamps that prove visits to national parks and monuments. Some collectors take that seriously, striving to get all of the parks represented in their passports. Because there is no park headquarters yet, Talken-Spaulding said, she might have to start carrying a stamp and inkpad to accommodate collectors. But she doesn’t have a stamp yet, either.
Her main goal is to shepherd the plans for Fort Monroe that will be developed over the next three years, and find the best ways to make use of the approximately 325 acres the Park Service controls at the site, she said.
Community leaders and the public will be invited to participate in formulating the monument’s General Management Plan.
“I would like to see us honor the history of this site, especially its role in ending slavery in this country, and highlight the natural resources and recreational opportunities here,” she said. “It’s a new park, and it will take some time to open up and find the right things to do to make it what it should be.”
She said that although the park has no budget now, she will ask for help from other national parks and monuments in the region to get some activities and programs under way. The National Park Service will seek funding for Fort Monroe in the 2013 federal budget.
There’s no way of knowing yet how many park employees there might be, she said, but she expects to have staff positions approved for facilities operations, educational programs and resource management.
“Visitors’ activities and staff numbers will depend on the plan that is developed and the budget we get,” Talken-Spaulding said.
She wants visitors to be able to enjoy the beach, and such activities as running, kayaking, picknicking and camping, she said. And although no park facilities are in place yet, she said, most of the site is open to the public already.


President Obama signed a Proclamation on Tuesday,

November 1, 2011 proclaiming Fort Monroe a National Monument.

Please join the City of Hampton and the Fort Monroe Authority in

Celebration of this significant historical event.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Location: Fort Monroe Continental Park [Next to Chamberlin]

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

TRADOC Band Fireworks Vendors

Remarks by the President at Signing of a Presidential Proclamation Establishing theFortMonroeNational Monument

Oval Office

2:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the great pleasures of this job, but also one of my responsibilities, is making sure that we are preserving our nation’s treasures so that they can be enjoyed by our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren. And over the years, over 100 sites have been set aside as national monuments — everything from the Statue of Liberty to theGrand Canyon.

So today, I am continuing that proud tradition by adding another monument to the list: FortMonroeinHampton,Virginia, has played a remarkable role in the history of our nation. It was the site of the first slave ships to land in theNew World. But then in the Civil War, almost 250 years later,FortMonroealso became a refuge for slaves that were escaping from the South, and helped to create the environment in which Abraham Lincoln was able to sign that document up there — the Emancipation Proclamation.

In September,FortMonroeclosed its doors as a military base. But thanks to advocacy of some outstanding citizens and historians and elected officials who are represented here, as well as the great work of our Department of the Interior and Ken Salazar and the — all the people who have been involved in making this day possible, we are going to continue this legacy, making Fort Monroe a national monument.

This is going to give an opportunity for people from all across the country to travel toFortMonroeand trace the history that has been so important to makingAmericawhat it is. It’s also going to be an incredibly important economic boost to the region. Local officials estimate that this may end up creating as many as 3,000 jobs in the region. It will add millions of dollars to the local economy in and aroundHampton. And so this is a win-win. Not only is it good for the people of that region now, but it also allows us to set aside this incredibly important site for the enjoyment and appreciation of generations to come.

So I want to thank everybody who’s here for the great work that they’ve done. I am looking forward to not only visiting myself but also taking Malia and Sasha down there so they can get a little bit of sense of their history. And I thank theCommonwealthofVirginiafor giving us this opportunity to appreciate the remarkable history of their state but also of this country.

So with that, I’m going to sign this bill — or executive order.

(The executive order is signed.)

There you go. (Applause.) Just one last point I want to make. As I said, there’s a strong economic component to this. We think we’re going to see additional jobs inVirginiaas a consequence of this. But for those members of Congress who are here, I still need some action from Congress — (laughter) — on the American Jobs Act and other steps. But in the meantime, this is going to make a big difference.

And again, I want to thank everybody here, particularly the private citizens who put their time and money and effort into making this day possible.

All right? Thank you, everybody.

Q Thank you.

Q Mr. President, any thoughts on Secretary Clinton’s loss?

THE PRESIDENT: Ms. Rodham was a remarkable person. Anybody who knows her history knows what a strong, determined and gifted person she was. For her to have been able to live the life that she did and to see her daughter succeed at the pinnacle of public service in this country, I’m sure was deeply satisfying to her.

My thoughts, Michelle’s thoughts, the entire White House’s thoughts go out to the entireClintonfamily. And I know that she will be remembered as somebody who helped make a difference in this country and this world.

All right? Thank you.

2:05 P.M. EDT


WAVY TV 10 Video


The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 01, 2011

Presidential Proclamation — Establishment of theFortMonroeNational Monument




Known first as “The Gibraltar of theChesapeake” and later as “Freedom’s Fortress,”FortMonroeon Old Point Comfort inVirginiahas a storied history in the defense of our Nation and the struggle for freedom.

FortMonroe, designed by Simon Bernard and built of stone and brick between 1819 and 1834 in part by enslaved labor, is the largest of the Third System of fortifications in theUnited States. It has been a bastion of defense of theChesapeake Bay, a stronghold of the Union Army surrounded by the Confederacy, a place of freedom for the enslaved, and the imprisonment site of Chief Blackhawk and the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. It served as the U.S. Army’sCoastalDefenseArtillerySchoolduring the 19th and 20th centuries, and most recently, as headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

Old Point Comfort in present dayHampton,Virginia, was originally named “Pointe Comfort” by Captain John Smith in 1607 when the first English colonists came toAmerica. It was here that the settlers ofJamestownestablishedFortAlgernonin 1609. AfterFortAlgernon’s destruction by fire in 1612, successive English fortifications were built, testifying to the location’s continuing strategic value. The first enslaved Africans inEngland’s colonies inAmericawere brought to this peninsula on a ship flying the Dutch flag in 1619, beginning a long ignoble period of slavery in the colonies and, later, this Nation. Two hundred and forty-two years later,FortMonroebecame a place of refuge for those later generations escaping enslavement.

During the Civil War,FortMonroestood as a foremost Union outpost in the midst of the Confederacy and remained under Union Army control during the entire conflict. The Fort was the site of General Benjamin Butler’s “Contraband Decision” in 1861, which provided a pathway to freedom for thousands of enslaved people during the Civil War and served as a forerunner of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Thus, Old Point Comfort marks both the beginning and end of slavery in our Nation. The Fort played critical roles as the springboard for General George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign in 1862 and as a crucial supply base for the siege ofPetersburgby Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant in 1864 and 1865. After the surrender of the Confederacy, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was transferred toFortMonroeand remained imprisoned there for 2 years.

FortMonroeis the third oldest United States Army post in continuous active service. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It provides an excellent opportunity for the public to observe and understandChesapeake Bayand Civil War history. At the northern end of theNorthBeacharea lies the only undeveloped shoreline remaining on Old Point Comfort, providing modern-day visitors a sense of what earlier people saw when they arrived in theNew World. TheNorthBeacharea also includes coastal defensive batteries, including Batteries DeRussy and Church, which were used from the 19th Century to World War II.

WHEREAS section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431) (the “Antiquities Act”), authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected;

WHEREAS the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended that Fort Monroe cease to be used as an Army installation, and pursuant to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-510), Fort Monroe closed on September 15, 2011;

WHEREAS the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Members of Congress, the Fort Monroe Authority, the City of Hampton, Virginia, and other surrounding counties and cities have expressed support for establishing a unit of the National Park System at Fort Monroe;

WHEREAS it is in the public interest to preserveFortMonroe, portions of Old Point Comfort, and certain lands and buildings necessary for the care and management of the Fort and Point as theFortMonroeNational Monument;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Antiquities Act, hereby proclaim that all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation, are hereby set apart and reserved as the Fort Monroe National Monument (monument) for the purpose of protecting the objects identified above. The reserved Federal lands and interests in lands encompass approximately 325.21 acres, together with appurtenant easements for all necessary purposes, which is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of this monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, including withdrawal from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing. Lands and interests in lands within the monument’s boundaries not owned or controlled by the United States shall be reserved as part of the monument upon acquisition of ownership or control by the United States.

The lands and interests in lands within the monument’s boundaries, except for the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, are currently managed by the Secretary of the Army. The Secretaries of the Army and the Interior shall enter into a memorandum of agreement that identifies and assigns the responsibilities of each agency related to such lands and interests in lands, the implementing actions required of each agency, the processes for transferring administrative jurisdiction over such lands and interests in lands to the Secretary of the Interior, and the processes for resolving interagency disputes. After issuance of this proclamation, the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the National Park Service, will continue to manage the lands and interests in lands within the monument boundaries, to the extent they remain in the ownership or control of the Government of the United States, until the transfer to the Secretary of the Interior is completed in accordance with the memorandum of agreement. The Secretary of the Interior shall then manage the monument through the National Park Service, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, consistent with the purposes and provisions of this proclamation, and in accordance with the memorandum of agreement.

The Old Point Comfort Lighthouse shall continue to be managed by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Not later than 1 year after the date of this proclamation, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall enter into an interagency agreement that, to the extent requested by the United States Coast Guard, provides for appropriate National Park Service interpretation of the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse for the public and for technical or financial assistance by the National Park Service for building treatment and other preservation activities. Nothing in this proclamation shall limit or interfere with the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse for navigational or national security purposes.

For the purpose of preserving, restoring, and enhancing the public visitation and appreciation of the monument, the Secretary of the Interior shall prepare a management plan for the monument within 3 years of the date of this proclamation. The management plan will ensure that the monument fulfill the following purposes for the benefit of present and future generations: (1) to preserve historic, natural, and recreational resources; (2) to provide land- and water-based recreational opportunities; and (3) to communicate the historical significance of the monument as described above. The management plan shall, among other provisions, set forth the desired relationship of the monument to other related resources, programs, and organizations in the Hampton area and other locations, provide for maximum public involvement in its development, and identify steps to be taken to provide interpretive opportunities for the entirety of the Fort Monroe National Historic Landmark and related sites in Hampton, Virginia. In developing the management plan, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider the Fort Monroe Reuse Plan, the Fort Monroe Programmatic Agreement dated April 27, 2009 (and any amendments to the agreement), and the Commonwealth of Virginia Fort Monroe Authority Act. Further, to the extent authorized by law, the Secretary of the Interior shall promulgate any additional regulations needed for the proper care and management of the monument.

The establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights. To the extent that the Commonwealth of Virginia holds any reversionary rights in any Federal lands or interests in lands within the boundaries of this monument, those rights are preserved and may operate or be exercised in due course without affecting the existence or designated boundaries of the monument. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Fort Monroe Authority, which would have responsibility for such lands and interests in lands upon their reversion, have agreed in principle to then relinquish to the United States ownership or control of those lands and interests in lands, as stated in the Governor’s letter agreement of September 9, 2011. The Secretary of the Interior shall accept the relinquishment of such lands and interests in lands on behalf of the Government of the United States, at which point such lands and interests in lands, reserved pursuant to this proclamation, shall be managed by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, consistent with the purposes and provisions of this proclamation, and in accordance with the memorandum of agreement.

Nothing in this proclamation shall affect the responsibilities of the Department of the Army under applicable environmental laws, including the remediation of hazardous substances or munitions and explosives of concern within the monument boundaries; nor affect the Department of the Army’s statutory authority to control public access or statutory responsibility to make other measures for environmental remediation, monitoring, security, safety or emergency preparedness purposes; nor affect any Department of the Army activities on lands not included within the monument.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the monument shall be the dominant reservation.

Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of theIndependenceof theUnited States of Americathe two hundred and thirty-sixth.



In the Oval Office, a Passage to Freedom


Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.


Fort Monroe, Monuments, Slavery, The Civil War, Virginia

Washington, Nov. 1, 2011

One night 150 years ago, in May 1861, three Virginia slaves crept away from their master under cover of darkness, stole a boat and escaped across the James River to a Union-held fortress. By the laws of both theUnited States and the new Confederacy, these men were not people but property: without rights, without citizenship, without even legal names.

This afternoon at the White House, the fugitives and their exploit were honored in a setting they could never have dreamt of: The Oval Office. There, President Obama signed an executive order declaring Fort Monroe, Va., the site of their escape, a national monument, placing it alongside such icons as the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty. I was present for the signing, and as I stood behind the president watching him set his pen to paper, I couldn’t help thinking that the three men — Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker and James Townsend — had just completed a journey that carried them across a far greater distance than those few miles across a river.


True, they had drawn attention in the White House at least once before, long ago. Their flight to FortMonroejust weeks into the Civil War forced President Lincoln to decide whether they should be granted asylum, thus undermining his inaugural pledge not to interfere with slavery anywhere it already existed, and his vow to prosecute the war as one to save the nation rather than emancipate bondsmen. But Lincoln’s ultimate decision to let the men remain safe within Union lines as so-called “contrabands” triggered a mass exodus of slaves — first dozens, then, hundreds, then thousands — that undermined the entire institution. (I have previously chronicled the contrabands’ story in greater depth in the Disunion series and in the New York Times Magazine.)

By the timeLincolnsigned the Emancipation Proclamation more than a year later, African-Americans’ liberation was, to some degree, a fait accompli. His private secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay later called the escape of Mallory, Baker and Townsend one of the pivotal moments of the entire Civil War.

For a century and a half, the story of the three men — and of the thousands of African Americans who followed in their footsteps — was largely forgotten as white Northerners and Southerners maintained a sort of tacit pact to minimize slavery’s role in the Civil War. FortMonroeremained a United Statesmilitary base, but no monument was erected to the contrabands. Instead, a “Jefferson Davis Memorial Park” was constructed to commemorate the Confederate president’s brief imprisonment there. Several years ago, when the fort was set for decommissioning under the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, state and local officials seriously considered plans to fill most of the waterfront site with condominiums.

But today, for the first time during his presidency, Mr. Obama used his executive power to create a new national park. FortMonroeNational Monument, as it is called, will commemorate both the end of slavery and its beginning — since, by an eerie coincidence, the first slave ship to arrive in the 13 colonies landed at that spot in 1619. A grassroots effort by local and state officials and citizen activists overcame the reluctance of some critics to add a new unit to the underfinanced National Park Service at a moment of economic austerity.

FortMonroe, the president said as he prepared to sign the order, “was the site of the first slave ships to land in the New World. But then in the Civil War, almost 250 years later, FortMonroealso became a refuge for slaves that were escaping from the South, and helped to create the environment in which Abraham Lincoln was able to sign that document up there.” Mr. Obama pointed to a framed, autographed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation hanging opposite his desk, not far from a portrait ofLincoln.

In a conversation after the ceremony, Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar calledFortMonroe“a crown jewel in the history ofAmerica’s march toward a more perfectUnion.” He added, “I can’t think of a place that has more national historical significance thanFortMonroe.”

As I filed out of the Oval Office with the other guests — passing between the Lincoln portrait and the Emancipation Proclamation — I found myself thinking especially of Shepard Mallory, who survived many years after his escape from slavery, well into the 20th century. The 1920 Census recorded him, at the age of about 80, still living not far from the place of his enslavement and escape, working as a carpenter and school janitor.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the gray-haired ex-slave, leaning on his mop and bucket as schoolchildren passed him in the hall, oblivious to the history that this old man had made and witnessed. He seemed to be with us in the White House as well, bearing witness as an African-American president honored his long-forgotten passage to freedom.

Follow Disunion at or join us on Facebook.

Adam Goodheart is the author of “1861: The Civil War Awakening.” He lives in Washington, D.C., and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he is the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience


By Julian Walker
Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© November 2, 2011


President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday granting national monument status to Fort Monroe, ending a five-year, grassroots effort to protect a storied spit of land that witnessed the beginning and end of slavery in the United States – and lots of military history in between.

Obama’s proclamation on Hampton’s Fort Monroe, which he signed in the Oval Office before more than a dozen witnesses, signals the start of a new chapter for the former Army base, built between 1819 and 1834. The National Park Service will manage more than half the land, including hundreds of acres of undeveloped waterfront property and the moated stone fortress itself.

Tuesday marked Obama’s first use of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which empowers presidents to designate federally owned land of significant historical value as a national monument. Politicians from both parties supported the idea, which was first suggested and long advocated for by a local group of history buffs that formed an alliance called Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.

“This is going to give an opportunity for people from all across the country to travel to Fort Monroe and trace the history that has been so important to making America what it is,” Obama said before signing the proclamation. “I am looking forward to not only visiting myself, but also taking Malia and Sasha down there so they can get a little bit of a sense of their history.”

Obama noted that the first slave ship to arrive in the Colonies landed at an early fort on the site in 1619. More than two centuries later, Fort Monroe became a refuge for slaves during the Civil War and “helped to create the environment in which Abraham Lincoln was able to sign that document up there,” he said, pointing to a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Work on the stone fortress began in 1819 under President James Monroe, who sought to protect the fledgling democracy from invasion after the British navy sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and burned Washington during the War of 1812. When it was completed in the 1830s, the “Gibraltar of the Chesapeake,” surrounded by an 8-foot-deep moat, enclosed 63 acres.

Fort Monroe was a military base until mid-September, when the Army moved its personnel to comply with a 2005 base realignment and closure decision. A little over half of its 570 acres will be managed by the park service. A state entity, the Fort Monroe Authority, will oversee the reuse of the rest of the property, including limited development in certain sections.

“This national monument designation is going to give us the credibility, name recognition and national status that will help us encourage people to visit and jobs to relocate here,” Glenn Oder, the authority’s executive director, said after watching Obama sign the proclamation.

According to a 2009 study commissioned by the authority and cited by the White House, the reuse and development of the fort could create nearly 3,000 jobs over the next 15 years.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who was governor of Virginia in 2005 when a federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced it would close Fort Monroe, said he didn’t fully understand or appreciate the fort’s history at the time. He praised community efforts since then that have been “unearthing the history and better telling its story.”

Obama also noted the grassroots effort. After the signing, he thanked “the private citizens who put their time and money and effort into making this day possible.”

One of those people is Mark Perreault, a Norfolk resident.

Perreault, an attorney with Norfolk Southern Corp., joked that the witnesses to Tuesday’s signing entered the Oval Office in reverse order of importance, because he was first. When he introduced himself to Obama as president of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, Perreault said, Obama shook his hand and said, “The work of citizens like you is necessary to make great things happen.”

Warner, who co-sponsored a bill to make Fort Monroe a national park, said he doubted that effort would have succeeded in a tough budget environment.

“There’s a whole lot of sites across the country that are trying to get National Park Service designation,” Warner said. “This would have been virtually impossible to push through Congress.”

Now that it has happened, the park service is moving quickly.

“We’re hoping someone carries a park service arrowhead down there this week,” spokesman David Barna said Tuesday, referring to the iconic brown and green logo inscribed with images of a mountain, tree and buffalo.

A yet-to-be-announced park superintendent will begin working at Fort Monroe this week, Barna said, with the rest of the staff assembled in the coming months. In the meantime, he said, rangers and staff from other sites will be temporarily assigned to the fort.

Kate Wiltrout, (757) 446-2629,

Julian Walker, (804) 697-1564,


A major victory at Fort Monroe

The Virginian-Pilot
© November 2, 2011

When Fort Monroe was targeted six years ago for closure, many state and local leaders were deeply skeptical of – even hostile to – the idea of transforming the Army post in Hampton into a national park.

Its rich history, little known to most Americans, was in danger of obliteration by people whose vision was limited to the fort’s magnificent waterfront views – and to the riches that row upon row of towering condos might bring.

But there were others, fortunately, who recognized that the land’s highest and best use would be in a decidedly different project. They pushed, unwaveringly, for the National Park Service’s involvement in preserving the 565-acre site and helped steer decision-makers toward a plan for limited, low-intensity development similar to San Francisco’s Presidio and New York City’s Governors Island.

This week, Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park and their many allies in the nation’s historic preservation community finally heard the news they’d long awaited: Their vision won.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation declaring the fort a national monument, setting into motion a plan to give the National Park Service control of at least 325 acres through ownership or easement. On the remainder, Virginia will rent out existing buildings and oversee new construction using guidelines compatible with Interior Department standards.

Under the park service’s stewardship, Americans will learn the story of Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory and James Townsend, three slaves who sought refuge at the Union-held fort in the early days of the Civil War. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s calculated decision to take them in prompted an exodus of thousands of slaves to “Freedom’s Fortress” and helped lay the groundwork for the Emancipation Proclamation.

Those stories and many others, stretching back centuries, await visitors. It’s likely, as National Park Service historians delve more deeply into Fort Monroe’s history and explore its archaeology, that new chapters will be written. And, it’s certain, as all of this takes shape, that new businesses and new jobs will breathe new life into Phoebus and surrounding neighborhoods.

The hardest work – attaining status as a national monument – is over. But there is much left for advocates of the park to accomplish. They have a vital role to play in helping to attract compatible projects – museums, among others – to the site and in ensuring that the state manages its portion of the property as responsibly as current plans dictate.

For the moment, though, they can pause in celebration. Fort Monroe National Park is in sight.