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Fort Monroe National Monument Launches Planning Effort With Open House Events On April 30th, 2012


Fort Monroe National Monument's historic significance includes its prominence as a landmark to ships and planes of the US military. While in the army, Edgar Allan Poe served on the site in the 1820s.

On April 5, Fort Monroe National Monument Superintendent Kirsten Talken-Spaulding announced the start of the park’s inaugural planning effort with two April 30th open house sessions and a web page that explains the process and solicits public comment.

The superintendent said, “This spring, a National Park Service planning team is beginning work on the first planning effort for the national monument-the development of a Foundation Document.”

In the process, Superintendent Talken-Spaulding said, “Your voice is important.”

“This planning phase will help further identify what is most important about the monument,” she added.

The Foundation Document describes “the monument's core mission and most important resources, focuses efforts on protecting its most important resources and values,” and “serves as the underlying guidance for all management and planning decisions.” She also said, “It is not a decision-making document and does not include management actions or strategies.”

The two open house sessions, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., on the 30th, at The Chamberlin on Fenwick Road on Fort Monroe, permit the public to “play a role in charting the park's future by sharing your thoughts.”

Superintendent Talken-Spaulding urged those who could not attend to weigh-in online or by mail (address below). She requested that the public comment on four key questions—

1) What is most important about Fort Monroe National Monument?

2) What are the greatest threats to Fort Monroe National Monument?

3) How have you used Fort Monroe in the past? What uses would you like to see at Fort Monroe?

4) What should the American people know about Fort Monroe? What are its most important stories?

Superintendent Talken-Spaulding’s announcement succinctly overviewed some of the most important historical background.

“This area was occupied by American Indians for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans," she said. "It was named ‘Pointe Comfort’ by Captain John Smith in 1607 when the first English colonists came to America. The first enslaved Africans in England's colonies in America were 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, Fort Monroe became a place of refuge for those later generations escaping enslavement. It has served as a bastion of the nation's defense over multiple centuries and is home to diverse natural resources, including ancient trees and beaches, and a variety of recreational opportunities. It is a vital part of the Chesapeake's natural and cultural landscape.”

To comment, visit the park’s planning web page or send answers to the above questions to—National Park Service, Denver Service Center, Fort Monroe NM Planning Team, 12795 West Alameda Parkway, P.O.Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287

The open house events will be held on the fort at The Chamberlin, a massive historic hotel. The original hotel on the site, the Hygeia, was built in 1820. Among the noteworthy clientele was Edgar Allan Poe, who served at the fort  while in the army during the mid 1820s. In 1849, a month before he died, the poet returned to read “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” on the hotel’s porch. The Hygeia burned in 1920, and the landmark of The Chamberlin was built. The structure is visible on upper left in the photo above.


Thanks for this fine article and announcement, and thanks Superintendent
Talken-Spaulding for the comment process and upcoming events. Readers should
know that what’s happening this spring extends a discussion seen in a September
22 NPT article
and in the many serious, carefully considered online comments that were
appended. That article’s first paragraph cited “a serious issue [that] remains
unresolved and underpublicized. If too little of the former military
installation is preserved, bayfront land near the historic fort itself will
surely be developed in ways very harmful to the historic site's viewscape and
sense of place.” That issue still remains unresolved and underpublicized, and
this month’s public commenting needs to highlight the problem. Here’s what has
happened: With astonishing complicity by the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, and thanks in part to an equally astonishing lack of skepticism by
press-release-believing journalists at the Washington Post and elsewhere,
Virginia’s leaders snookered President Obama into declaring not a real Fort
Monroe National Monument, but a fake one. The president left a huge, gaping
hundred-acre hole right in the middle of the monument’s sense-of-place-defining
Chesapeake bayfront. If Fort Monroe is indeed the site of American history’s
greatest moment, as Edward L. Ayers has called it, then that huge gap is as
self-evidently preposterous as, say, a subdivision on a Monticello hillside. In
Hampton, city council candidate Tom Gear is calling it the biggest “land grab”
in Virginia’s history –- a posterity-disrespecting attempt to place precious
public land into private use. Gear is the former Virginia state legislator whom
Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park recently commended formally for seven
years’ leadership as Virginia’s only politician who truly stands up for Fort
Monroe. To visualize the whole controversy in less than 15 seconds, please see
the two illustrations and the caption that appear at the top of the page –- and to help Fort Monroe’s truest
friends fix the fake national monument, please ask for a REAL national
monument/park in the second of the four key questions that Superintendent
Talken-Spaulding is asking above. Thanks very much. Steven T. Corneliussen,
[email protected] (P.S. for NPT: As your own September 22 article pointed
out, all of Fort Monroe matters, not just the moated citadel. I hope you’ll
replace the present photo with the aerial photo of all of Fort Monroe. Again,
please see . Thanks.)

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