United States

Fort Monroe National Monument

This 325-acre park incorporates two non-contiguous portions of a two-and-a-half-mile long peninsula located in the Chesapeake Bay. The 93-acre southern section includes a 63-acre moated masonry and earthen fortress, constructed from 1819 to 1834. The northern section is characterized by remnant batteries, sandy beaches, and coastal forests. The peninsula is separated from the mainland by Mill Creek, a 53-acre saltmarsh. 

The original fort (1609) witnessed the arrival of the first documented enslaved Africans to England’s North American colonies in 1619. The fortification, reconstructed in 1632 and 1730, was complemented by a stone lighthouse in 1802. Following the War of 1812, the United States developed the Third System of Coastal Fortifications (1816-1860) and engaged military engineer General Simon Bernard to design Fort Monroe. 

In 1861 the fort provided refuge to three self-emancipated African Americans, which attracted additional asylum seekers and initiated a chain of landmark legal decisions that led to the Emancipation Proclamation (1863). In 1867 Fort Monroe was reinstituted as the army’s Artillery School of Practice. It hosted several training centers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, before closing as an active army post in 2011. 

Today, the fort features a central lawn parade ground surrounded by structures and a perimeter drive. Mature southern live oaks, including an approximately 500 years old specimen, frame the parade ground and dot the lawns separating the structures. The fortress hosts the Casemate Museum, established in 1951. 

In 1960 most of the peninsula was designated a National Historic Landmark District and in 1966 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2011 President Barack Obama designated 325 acres a national monument, included in the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom in 2012. In 2015 the historic district was expanded to 565 acres. 

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