Posted on: August 21 2013

Governor McDonnell: Please Don’t Build Houses on a Historic Civil War Site


In November 2011, President Obama declared Fort Monroe a national monument, honoring this critical military installation and the role it played as “Freedom’s Fortress” for thousands of enslaved African Americans who took refuge there during the Civil War. The monument designation, however, did not preserve the entire peninsula. The National Park Service manages the star-shaped fort and the natural beaches in the northeast part of the park site while the Commonwealth of Virginia manages the remaining land.

Take action to protect Fort Monroe on NPCA’s website.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will soon approve a Master Plan for future development at Fort Monroe. Recent press coverage has stated that the Master Plan will include selling as much property as possible at Fort Monroe to private interests. Citizens have overwhelmingly asked that the land that lies between the star-fort and the beaches be kept free of new buildings to one day unite the national monument with green space. The current Master Plan calls for this area, known as the Wherry Quarter, to become a private residential subdivision that would dominate the landscape and compromise the historic character of the area.

Surely we can keep a small amount of land free of private development in order to unite the historic fort and the beaches of Fort Monroe National Monument. There are plenty of places in Virginia to build housing—the state doesn’t need to encroach on a critical part of our Civil War history. If you value preserving the integrity of Fort Monroe, please send a message to Governor McDonnellHe will be approving the Master Plan soon—so please take a moment to share your comments today.

Learn more about the beauty and history of Fort Monroe by viewing the video below documenting this special place and the community efforts urging the governor to preserve the historic landscape.

-Pamela Goddard, Chesapeake and Virginia Program Manager

  1. Charles and Jane Yerkes
    Charles and Jane Yerkes08-30-2013

    This wonderful site which so historic deserves to be preserved so that eventually it may become a National Park, which it deserves to be for the use of all of our citizens rather than be developed.

  2. Sepi Dinwiddie Prichard
    Sepi Dinwiddie Prichard08-31-2013

    Why would you want to do this ? The only reason I can think of is to put money in your pocket thru your deep pocket friends that want to build there. A good Governor would not do this…but then past actions from you will prove that your time as Governor of The Commonwealth of Virginia has been questionable to say the least.

  3. Steven T. Corneliussen
    Steven T. Corneliussen08-31-2013

    Thanks very much, NPCA, for this new page supplementing the earlier one, where—belatedly but blessedly—you sounded the alarm by warning, “The proposed development would separate the two parts of the park, undermine the park’s historic character, and limit public access. We can’t let this happen.”

    Of course, the problem is that we *are* letting it happen. Sense of place at Fort Monroe is already lost unless one big thing changes—that is, unless national attention replaces national inattention.

    It’s lost because of Virginia’s leaders. With little skepticism from Tidewater media and none from national media, they’ve grimly persevered for eight years against their own citizens, against national memory, and even against economic good sense. They now see their way clear to finally, permanently, cementing a taxpayer-burdening plan that deletes sense of place.

    They are not counting or even noticing the messages arriving at the governor’s office. To save Fort Monroe, we’re going to need something a lot stronger. Only focused national attention can thwart Virginia’s leaders now.

    That’s why it’s great that NPCA, a solidly national organization, has finally stepped up.

    (When, I wonder, will the National Trust for Historic Preservation finally live up to its name in the matter of Fort Monroe? Can you imagine how quickly the New York Times would break its Fort Monroe silence if NTHP would quit kowtowing to Big Money and, instead, finally speak up forthrightly?)

    One thing, though, NPCA: Why the opening falsehood on this new page, and why the uncertain trumpet about the omitted land?

    Your new page begins with this falsehood: “In November 2011, President Obama declared Fort Monroe a national monument.” Yes, the falsehood is quickly corrected. But much of the problem all along has been public confusion on that very point. (Confusion that, unbelievably, NTHP actually exacerbated.) The president designated only parts of Fort Monroe. It’s mainly only the parts that were never threatened anyway that are now nationally stewarded.

    And the new page calls only for keeping “a small amount of land free of private development in order to unite” the two parts of the split national monument. Small? True, what’s needed is small compared to, say, Yosemite. And maybe you don’t want to alarm people too much, though with Fort Monroe in extremis, I wouldn’t know why not. In any case, compared to the rest of Fort Monroe, I don’t think any true friend of Fort Monroe really wants only a “small amount.” That phrase would justify a mere “green connector” instead of the substantial portion of land that is crucial for sustaining sense of place at this national treasure.

    Thanks for the support for Fort Monroe and thanks for this chance to comment. Please shake the national media tree as much as you possibly can, NPCA. At this point, citizen messages to Governor McDonnell won’t change anything. Instead, he and the other leaders need shaming in the national media for their squalid irresponsibility on Virginia’s only political issue with thousand-year implications.

    Steven T. Corneliussen

  4. Gayle E. Cozzens
    Gayle E. Cozzens09-01-2013

    Wherry Quarter needs to be kept free of new buildings. This area is a critical part of our Civil War History. This need to be kept for the public use not private. Please do not let Fort Monroe be destroy.
    Sincerely Gayle

  5. Joel G. Torres
    Joel G. Torres09-05-2013

    Fort Monroe National Monument spans the American story through the 21st century: American Indian presence, Captain John Smith’s journeys, a safe haven for freedom seekers during the Civil War, and a bastion of defense for the Chesapeake Bay. A public planning process will determine future public services and programming at this new national park with a centuries-old tradition.

  6. Beverly Spannuth
    Beverly Spannuth09-11-2013

    Please do not allow housing on historic ground at Fort Monroe.

  7. Brenda Ruark
    Brenda Ruark09-11-2013

    Building houses on Fort Monroe would diminish the integrity and beauty and historic value of this site. Please refrain from doing so.

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